Saturday, July 16, 2011

2006 archive


October 23rd 
FROM THE GRASSROOTS
BY
A CONSERVATIVE
BOURNEMOUTH CONFERENCE DIARY – 2006

Sunday, 1st October
15.15pm. Headed for Conference. Entrance this year via the hill on the sea front leading to the Highcliffe Hotel where all the bigwigs stay. Heard part of William Hague’s address – typical Hague. Witty, urbane, generous,delighted to be part of the Cameron team.
Prospective U.S. Republican Presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, was warmly received. Speech was that of a well respected elder statesman – thoughtful, measured and fairly low key. My immediate thought: "The Christian ‘moral majority’ on the right who now control the Republican Party probably won’t wear it." Might be better for him to stand as a Republican-Independent. Probably would not win but might poll a lot of votes leaving a possible Democrat President to extract the United States (and us) from the Iraq/Afghanistan mess.
16.45 David Cameron’s first major speech to the party faithful. Another great communicator and he seems to have clear objectives for the future. We are charting a new course, thankfully. Generally well received but I suppose he would have got a standing ovation had he simply ready out the Bournemouth telephone directory. The lady sitting near me muttered to the gentleman next to me "But it’s not Tory." I nearly said to her: "Madam, we’ve tried basic Tory and it still left us with less than 200 MPs in 2005". Between Senator McCain’s speech and that of our Dave, the wide conference screen reminded us of past Tory leaders and philosophers, starting with Edmund Burke and William Pitt. Poor Edward Heath was booed by some representatives – a pity because going into the then Common Market in 1973 seemed a good thing (not the cumbersome bureaucracy it is now) and Heath’s 1971 Industrial Relations Act was passed 10 years before its time. On the other hand it was nice that John Major got a cheer. Though his administration ended in disaster it is generally forgotten that in 1992 he polled over 14 million votes, the highest Conservative vote ever, and was rewarded with one of the smallest overall majorities ever (21) since universal suffrage.
And so to one of the over 200 fringe meetings arranged over the four days. I chose to go to the Trouville Hotel to hear George Osborne speak. Room packed. Very interesting interview followed by questions on tax, council tax, pensions, housing, public spending etc. Most memorable quote, repeated in his main speech on Tuesday, "There’s no such thing as a tax cutting Shadow Chancellor". On the way back to my hotel the taxi driver told me they had been ferrying representatives back to the station as they had no conference passes. Who is responsible for this mess up? Will heads roll? Probably not.
Monday, 2nd October
10am Arrived in conference when David "Two Brains" Willetts was speaking. Session wound up by a speech, mainly on health, by Andrew Lansley. In between a good array of speakers, a number of whom were professionals and not members of the Party. How refreshing this is. Interesting footnote: in today’s Daily Telegraph a letter from Diana Heimann, daughter of the late Iain Macleod (one of my heroes) who was Minister of Health from 1952 to 1955. Even in those early days Macleod was conscious of the problems the NHS might face and wrote: "The quicker we can actually decentralise more authority to those who actually work in the service, the better for the NHS itself." Ingenious foresight or simply a pipe dream?
Late morning
Debate on crime and anti social behaviour particularly by teenagers and young adults opened by Damian Green in a well constructed and thoughtful speech. Close speech by Shadow Home secretary David Davis. Enough here to please the ‘true blues’ but also enough to appeal to the middle ground where elections are won and lost. No mention of bringing back hanging or the brandishing of handcuffs at this conference, thank goodness. Again varying views across a whole range of important subjects with contributions by non conservatives.
12.30pm Lunchtime fringe meeting with George Osborne again and sponsored by The Times – Conservatives and the Voters. Conservatives and the non voters would have been more apt. Lively packed meeting. Was lucky to get a place standing. Would have liked to ask a question but because of the crowd failed to catch the chairman’s attention.
Afternoon session. Missed early part of the debate on the environment but arrived to hear speeches from four prospective parliamentary candidates – Wilfred Emmanuel Jones, a black farmer from Devon who is contesting the new seat of Chippenham, another gentleman contesting Wyre Forest, formerly a safe Conservative seat but held at present by an independent doctor on a Save Kidderminster Hospital platform, and two women candidates in Central Derbyshire, another new seat, and Solihull how on earth did we lose here in 2005? Good candidates, but can they succeed where others have failed? Theresa May hosted the first of three "Meet the Candidates" sessions in which six people were invited to put forward a favourite policy to be part of the policy review. Each candidate was cross examined by a panel of four experts including Oliver Letwin. When we voted the winner with 29% was a lady concerned with the environment.
17.45 And so to my one evening fringe meeting, again at the Trouville, to hear Andrew Roberts, author of "Eminent Churchillians" lecture on the subject: "Advice to Dave from great Tory Leaders of the Past". Roberts gave a tour de force of advice previous leaders might give – Peel, Disraeli, Lord Salisbury, Balfour, Bonar Law, Baldwin and so on. All it would appear had in Harold Macmillan’s world: "Little local difficulties". Made an observation in an interesting lecture with relevant questions afterwards. The former Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, was present at the meeting.
Tuesday, 3rd October
Arrived in the main hall for the social justice discussion at about 10am. Speakers included the Bishop of Rochester. Social justice is, apparently, the main theme of this year’s conference. General opinion was that much more could and should be done to reduce poverty and inequalities in health and education and that the voluntary sector should be involved to achieve this end. Much more emphasis should be put on the family as a unit of stability in our society, even though it was recognised that for many, maybe the majority, there was no family to fall back on. Policy should be more family friendly.
11am. Debate on role of business in society. General conclusion, not surprisingly, was that more must be done to encourage business by reducing taxes and cutting red tape.
11.30amEconomic discussion opened by Alan Duncan. Shadow Secretary of State for Industry and Trade, who told us about the Tyneside project. Apparently the Trade and Industry team are going to Geordieland to help in and learn about the regeneration of industry in this deprived area of Great Britain. The balance between work and leisure was thoughtfully considered by Will Hutton, formerly editor of The Observer. The challenges posed by the internet and information technology were the subject of a discourse from an American professor, whose name escapes me. Finally, an effective "wind up" speech by George Osborne who confirmed his support of tax cuts in the long run and wanted to reduce the amount of around 43% which the State currently spent to 38% but refused to put economic stability at risk. Generally well received.
12.45pm And so over to the Hermitage Hotel to hear Andrew Tyrie MP and John Strafford argue on how the political parties should be financed. About 50 present. Wide ranging analysis by Andrew Tyrie with John Strafford repeating much of what has been previously written in these pages. Made an observation regarding the financing from organisations such as Aims for Industry and trust funds, both effectively answered by Andrew Tyrie in his closing remarks. Met and John and Caroline Strafford for the first time after corresponding with them for nearly nine years.
17.45pm Very wet so took a taxi over to the Trouville to hear Charles Moore interview Simon Jenkins about his recent book "Thatcher and Sons". Jenkins asserts that there were in fact two Thatcher revolutions – the first being the substantial reduction in income tax rates, the trade union legislation and the privatisation of industries. The second, continued by Major and then by Blair and Brown (the latter having almost total control over domestic policy), resulted in the centralising of power in Number 10 by taking it away from institution such as local authorities and the universities. Interesting comments and questions. But are Blair and Brown truly Thatcherites and have they all, in the 16 years since her fall, been responding to the Thatcherite agenda in much the same way as the Conservatives in the 1950’s and early 1960’s accepted the welfare state, including the NHS, and the corporate solution of the 1945/51 Labour Governments. Only time will tell. Certainly Blair, by tearing up Clause 4 of the Labour Party constitution, carried out one of Margaret Thatcher’s dearest wishes – the demise of unreconstructed state socialism.
Wednesday, 4th October
Decided to go to the conference late and remain in BIC until David Cameron’s speech. Arrived at about 11.15am for part of the debate on globalisation and global poverty. How interesting and informative have been this week’s discussions. Debate wound up by Andrew Mitchell. Memorable quote: "This is not a Labour issue or a Conservative issue: it is a world issue". Then to Meet the Candidates again with Theresa May and selected guests including Ann Widdecombe celebrating her 59th birthday. Winner a young candidate from Leeds who missed out last time by 400 votes.Wanted zero VAT on certain energy saving light bulbs. Finally, the Conference choice debate: "Should Jamie Oliver be regarded as a national treasure?" Panel included Boris Johnson who had made some fatuous remarks about school dinners and had been hounded by the press the previous evening. Boris was his usual, inimitable eccentric self which is why everybody loves him – the human side of the Tory party showing we are not all stuffed shirts. The proposition was eventually carried by 77% to 23%.
14.00 Francis Maude addresses conference profusely apologising for the ‘mess up’
over the conference passes. Commends those from Central Office who have worked night and day to clear the backlog. Stephen Castle, who chaired the conference, was presented with a bell – a tradition going back to 1958, when Lord Hailsham was Chairman and famously rang it at the conference preceding the 1959 general election. He thanked everyone who had made the conference a success – in particular the police, security and fire services. During the week party members from the highest to the lowest had been working on the restoration and reconstruction of the St Mary’s Church, a dilapidated and run down building. The MP for Bournemouth East, Tobias Elwood, in his building overalls reported progress. The keys to the church had to be handed back by 4.30pm that afternoon. The project was dubbed: "The Conservatives and Social Action".
14.30 And so to our leader David Cameron who brings the conference to a close in a wide ranging speech covering all the topics discussed over the last four days. This man certainly has charisma and spoke with ease, compassion and, I hope, sincerity on subjects which, in previous conferences, would not have been considered winners – notably the NHS and the environment. We have to move on – the world is much changed since we were last in government – and has fundamentally changed since 9/11. Of course, he needs to put flesh on what are, at present, the bare bones of policy but there is probably no Clause 4 equivalent for him as the free market argument has been won. I have been following politics, particularly Conservative politics, for over 40 years and every Conservative leader from Harold Macmillan and to Michael Howard has had his or her critics. In December 2005, we, the grass roots members, voted for a change of direction and David Cameron can hardly be blamed for trying to deliver it. Only time will tell whether his strategy has been successful. If it is (and recent opinion polls suggest that even the NHS has been neutralised as a possible vote loser) then there will be plenty of takers for his brand of liberal conservatism.
For the first time since 1992 there is a genuine optimism that we could possibly form the next government. We have to support the current leadership and to misquote St Paul:
"There now abideth three things: Faith, Hope and Dave".

July 30th
FROM THE GRASSROOTS
BY A
CONSERVATIVE

It is just over eight months since David Cameron was elected as our leader – enough time, I think, for an ordinary member of the Party, such as myself, to make an initial appraisal. In a previous article I admitted that I switched from supporting David Davis and backed David Cameron. Although I did not actually hear Cameron’s speech at Blackpool, from the reports I read, it was evident that he was addressing the nation as a whole, not just the Party faithful, and touching upon subjects which might not, in normal circumstances, be associated with our Party. Here was a man who could ‘reach out’ to all sections of society.
At the same time I recognised that Cameron had had no ministerial experience, not even at a junior level, other than as an adviser to ministers in John Major’s Government. In addition, he had been an MP for less than five years. I took a gamble and, although I have been disappointed in some aspects of Cameron’s leadership (and I will return to these later) I believe that last December I put my cross in the right box. The truth is that way back in 1991, we did not fully realise how much Labour, under the ruthless leadership of Blair, Mandelson and Campbell, had re-positioned itself and that Socialism would now be achieved not by nationalisation but by stealth, much higher taxation and Government spending, the gradual erosion of civil liberties, and continual Government interference in the lives of ordinary people. We thought that Labour, as previously, would ‘mess up’ the economy, there would be a sterling crisis and economic chaos. How wrong we were! For the first time since 1906 we have been in opposition for three consecutive Parliaments. We have failed to ‘see off’ the second opposition Party (the Liberal Democrats, previously the Liberals) and have had to learn a very harsh lesson: no Party has a divine right to govern.
I agree with those who say that to simply rely on our ‘core’ vote will not win a General Election (2001 and 2005 proved that) and there must be a broader appeal to encourage former supporters to return and to attract new voters. But I pose this question: what happens if, as happened in the Bromley and Chislehurst by election, your natural supporters stay at home and don’t bother to vote? The by-election result, in my view, was a disaster which could have and should have been prevented. On so many occasions in the past we have seen the Labour vote collapse in suburban seats and the Liberal Democrats are always the beneficiaries. (Look at Richmond, Kingston and Sutton in South West London). Even in 2005 the combined Labour/Liberal Democrat vote was 20,000 in Bromley/Chislehurst against the late Eric Forth’s 24,000. I suspect that many of our members in the constituency are over 65 and that the actual active membership may only be about 50, if that. We can make all sorts of excuses – the holiday period, the fine weather, the World Cup, Wimbledon and so on. But the fact remains. We could not get out the Conservative vote in Bromley/Chislehurst.
And even though I don’t live in the constituency I am bitter. Bitter because of an unnecessary humiliation. A few months ago I was invited to become a ‘Patron’ of the Party, contributing £50 per month to the Party Funds. Apart from the fact that I cannot afford it, I have no intention of giving any more; firstly because I know the money will not be well spent, and, secondly, because I do not receive a copy of the Annual Accounts, showing the income received and expenditure made. In other words, if I contribute let me see how it is spent.
My main reservation about David Cameron is whether he is remaining true to Conservative principles. Or is he a prisoner of the ‘Notting Hill’ set that surrounds his (and I guarantee their life style is miles away from my own) and is pandering to what I call the middle class metropolitan liberal elite? That is those who naturally veer towards the left but who can through either wealth or position escape from the trendy ideas and policies they wish to foist on others; particularly when the going gets tough.
A letter in the Sunday Telegraph recently argued strongly against neglecting the ‘core’ vote and restated principles and ideas which should put clear blue water between ourselves and new Labour; principles which have, incidentally, won us many General Elections in the past and will do so in the future. As a Conservative I dislike ‘big’ Government and the idea that the gentleman in Whitehall does know best. In my experience Governments waste large sums of money on schemes devised by bureaucrats to please their own masters. In my lifetime we have spent billions and billions only to be told 40 years later that perhaps it was foolish to spend such large sums – the building of high rise blocks of flats in places like the East End of London and the desire to build large comprehensive schools (bog standard or not) are but two examples of the state nonchalantly spending taxpayers money. Our taxation system should not be a tool to punish the wealthy; it should be used to encourage wealth creation so that businesses, especially small businesses, may thrive and prosper and thus create jobs. There must be an end to the ever increasing burdensome ‘form filling’ which employers (especially those with a few employees) have to undertake simply to please a wheeze thought up by a Government department. We seem to have ruled out a ‘flat rate’ of Income Tax (which is a pity) and seem ready to accept an Inheritance Tax system which for many means handing over to the State 40% of anything above £285,000, now the average price of a modest house in London or South East England. Our plans should be bold and radical – the Inheritance tax exemption limit raised to £1 million perhaps, or the exempt transfer between husband and wife extended to maybe a third or fourth generation.
On things like Health and Education, ‘Free at the point of use but as much diversity and choice as is possible and practicable’ should be our slogan. We should be prepared to face up the vested interests who will place all sorts of obstacles in our way. In many ways Gordon Brown’s desire to spend the same amount on a child educated by the State as one educated privately is laudable. The difference though is this: the State has no control over the child, and has no idea if the money is being spent wisely or wasted. In the private sector, the parent or whoever is responsible, is likely to have direct access to the school and will soon complain if the money spent is not producing the desired result, i.e. a good education for the child.
Like many Conservatives, I regret voting ‘Yes to Europe’ in the referendum way back in 1975. I believe we were deceived and never thought I would see the day when the laws passed by the European Parliament would override or be superior to those passed by Westminster. It is not, therefore, surprising that UKIP has attracted so many former Conservative voters. Their slogan is simple and easily understood: they cannot be vilified as loonies or nutters for most are patriots who want to see Britain freed from the shackles of bureaucracy and collectivism which characterise so much of the thinking of the European Parliament. A great country which 80 years ago not only had an Empire covering a quarter of the globe but fought two World Wards to preserve the freedom we enjoy today is now reduced to a province on a map of ‘Greater Europe’. What is even sadder is that few people are willing to stand up and say: "I’m proud to be British and to be part of her history and traditions". What a contrast with the United State of America where every day school children acknowledge their inheritance by revering ‘The Stars and Stripes’ coupled in most cases with a (Christian) act of worship.
The election of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly in 1999 completed the process ensuring that Westminster, were it in the unlikely event of superseding Brussels as supreme law maker, would never be the same again. For we now have nearly 100 MPs who have no control over domestic matters devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. Nationalism, certainly in Scotland, is as strong as ever (it holds four seats at Westminster which would, otherwise, in all probability be Conservative). The system of proportional representation (admirable in many ways) has resulted in Scotland having a Labour Liberal-Democrat coalition in perpetuity and a Labour administration in Cardiff with no overall majority. The UK taxpayers as a whole contribute 20% more to public expenditure in Scotland than in England and, with the ‘West Lothian’ question completely unresolved. Many – probably the majority – of England’s voters are decidedly unhappy. Who can blame them?
The truth is that Labour voting Scotland and Labour voting Wales (the latter often with Conservative Secretaries of State from English seats) wanted to be rid of Conservative voting England and a UK Parliament in which the Conservatives had a majority. And, as with so much other legislation, Labour did not properly think through the consequences of its own proposals. The ‘English Question’ was left unaddressed and the chickens are eventually coming home to roost. Some prominent political commentators are even calling for a completely independent Scotland. It is said that Scotland is pursuing Socialist policies which can only lead to long term decline and impoverishment. Since the Union Scotland has produced many fine doctors, lawyers, inventors – even Prime Ministers. It would be a great shame if, simply for short-term gain, the Union has been fragmented, maybe forever. Ours is a rapidly changing world and a dangerous one in which terror groups, Islamic and others, thrive. 9/11 has failed to shake us out our complacency and we could be subjected to another terrorist attack like that at London a year ago at any time.
By the time the next General Election comes in 2009/2010 Labour will have been in office for 12-13 years with, in all probability, Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. I would like to see David Cameron fight the election based on sound Conservative policies which are realistic and not dogmatic or based upon the flimsy findings of some ‘focus’ group. I want the best candidates fighting the seats we hold and the winnable marginals. I don’t care whether they are black, white, yellow, male, female, gay, straight, professionals or manual workers. The appalling ‘A’ list should be torn up for the simple reason that it is saying that one particular candidate is more worthy of representing us in Parliament than another. Yes, I would like a wider ‘mix’ but not by this method. Labour has over 100 women MPs but 90% are faceless wonders just there to do the whips bidding and cheer on Tony Blair.
Although historically we have had comparatively few MPs who were women, those who have got to Westminster have done so through their ability. Margaret Thatcher is the obvious example and, more recently, Ann Widdecombe. In the 1950’s and 1960’s the redoubtable Dame Irene Ward from Tynemouth was a thorn in the side of both Conservative and Labour ministers. The blue rinsed, Dame Joan Vickers, twice beat Michael Foot in the dockers’ seat of Plymouth Davenport. Dame Pat Hornsby-Smith was a junior minister in Macmillan’s Government and created a Privy Councillor.
In conclusion I believe we should
choose the best candidates;
run a campaign based on sound Conservative principles;
have policies that have a broad appeal, but do not neglect the ‘core’ vote;
not be thrown off course by our opponents campaign tactics;
continue to ram home the message that despite being No 2 in the Labour Government, (for nine) or whatever years, Gordon Brown, whether ‘old’ Labour or ‘new’ Labour, is as much responsible for its failures as was his predecessor.


April 2nd
Telling A Cameron
by
Henry Curteis
It’s very trusting of COPOV to say they agree with Cameron’s proposal to cut the number of
MP’s by 10%.
If a schedule of which MP’s are to be cut is produced, and the method of exclusion explained,
then it might be possible to agree with such a proposal. But giving open-ended consent to a
proposal of unknown detail which could have enormous ramifications, is surely a case of
democrats naively assenting to the dismantling of their own long established democratic state.
I see no evidence that Cameron has any regard for the British Constitution. His talk is of
‘trusting people’, and ‘supporting institutions’. In reality he prefers ‘manipulating people’ by
pushing the European programme for the state funding of political parties without even
mentioning there is such a thing (Maastricht Treaty). He is reducing the influence and the
role of MP’s, centralising Party decisions, disempowering constituencies, and making the
media the primary arena of political influence and ‘debate’.
As for the EPP, I am quite convinced he has absolutely no intention of quitting at any time.
I hope that COPOV stops trying to meet Cameron half way, and strong eurosceptics stop
naively waiting for the moment of delivery. It’s like Ashdown trusting Blair. You’ll waste ten
years trying to find a core of honesty which simply is not there. 


FROM THE GRASS ROOTS
BY A CONSERVATIVE
TONY BLAIR - IN OFFICE BUT NOT IN POWER?

The recent death of John Profumo brings back vivid memories of that 1963 summer. I was 16
and preparing to take my ‘O’ levels in a South Wales grammar school (Cowbridge) which had
a 300 year connection with Jesus College, Oxford and a headmaster who had played
international rugby for Wales and in the famous 1935 Wales victory over the New Zealand All
Blacks. Hot June days are never the best time for studying and as I tried to remember the
main features of Castlereagh’s (or was it Canning’s ?) early 19th century foreign policy, the
political scandal of the century provided a welcome distraction. Not only was the Minister in
question found to have slept with a call girl but in addition, he lied about the affair. Of course,
there had been other scandals – five years early the obscure Member for Harrow East, a
junior Minister, had been forced to resign after being found chatting up and in the arms of a
Guardsman. But the ‘Profumo affair’ (as it became known) was something different. As a Privy
Councillor and Minister for War, Profumo had access to intelligence and security could have
been compromised. In addition, Harold Macmillan’s administration seemed tired and lack
lustre after nearly 12 years in office. It had already been engulfed by other difficulties –
economic and social – and in Harold Wilson, Labour had a new dynamic leader breathing the
merits of the "white hot heat of the technological revolution’. Broken by the Profumo affair
and ill health, Macmillan resigned, handing over the leadership and Premiership not to the
favourite, R.A. Butler, but to a Member of the House of Lords, the 14th Earl of Home
(pronounced Hume). With the assassination on November 22 of United Stated President,
John F. Kennedy, 1963 was a memorable year. These then were the events which kindled
my interest in politics. Unfortunately the lessons of 1963 have not been learnt by those who
govern or aspire to govern us today. For John Profumo, stripped of his Privy Councillorship
and his seat in Parliament, there was no coming back – no second chance. Yet in the past nine
years, two Cabinet Ministers have resigned, come back and resigned again. In 1963 when the
Profumo affair was debated in the House, Macmillan was forced to account for his actions
(or lack of them) and 30 Conservative MPs abstained in the final vote when the House divided
and within a year the United States somehow became involved in an unwinnable war in
Vietnam (shades of Iraq?) and (cave Gordon Brown) the favourite sometimes never wins the
ultimate prize, particularly when he is not supported by the outgoing Prime Minister.
The 1963-64 period was exciting in many ways and the fact that, even when led by an
aristocrat, our Party in the 1964 election polled over 12 million votes and (with its Ulster
Unionist allies) had 303 MPs in the House of Commons should remind us of the mountain we
still have to climb in 2009/2010.
As Conservatives it comes as no surprise to us that third term Governments soon hit troubled
waters – we have experienced it twice since World War Two. Even before the Profumo
scandal referred to previously, Macmillan’s Government had hit the rocks. Orpington was lost
to the Liberals in March 1962. Margaret Thatcher’s third term was marred by quarrels over
Europe (the famous 1988 Bruges speech), disagreements with her Chancellor, Nigel Lawson,
who had no love for Sir Alan Walters, Thatcher’s economics adviser and, of course, the
notorious ‘Poll’ tax. Scotland was already out of love with us but this measure, imposed a year
earlier North of the Border, was the straw that finally broke us – and we are, even now, 16
years later, still feeling its effects, as our disastrous performance in the recent Dunfermline
by-election shows.
In 1981, Margaret Thatcher was the most unpopular Prime Minister since the advent of
political polling yet by the start of her third term, July 1987, all her trade union legislation had
been passed, inflation was seemingly under control, many state controlled industries had been
privatised and a war against a military dictatorship been won. Had she retired on the 10th
anniversary of her premiership (May 1989) the chances are that our Party would have been
spared the terrible turmoil on the 1990’s and the self doubt which has (and still does) afflict us.
What will Tony Blair’s legacy be? Having read Simon Jenkin’s article in the Sunday Times
(March 19), it is clear that Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, Alistair Campbell et alia took over
the Labour Party, and with all the weapons that modern technology could muster and skilled
media presentation, wielded it into a formidable election force with the one object of gaining
power after 18 years in the wilderness, and it worked. The writer also happens to believe that
by 1997 whoever led the Labour Party would have defeated John Major so tarnished, tired
and out of touch had his Government become.
Tony Blair has now been overtaken by what Harold Macmillan called "Events". Probably the
biggest mistake in the first term was to sack Frank Field, his Social Security Minister, for
wanting to think the unthinkable over social security and benefit. The Iraq War, the row with
the BBC and the death of Dr David Kelly dominated the second term. On current form, a
messy compromise on schools together with loans by prominent businessmen in exchange for
favours look set to dominate his third. Nor has he been helped by the brooding presence of his
would be successor, Gordon Brown. Margaret Thatcher was fortunate in that neither of her
Chancellors in her first two terms, Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson, was a likely successor
and that, unlike Blair, she dominated her Cabinet and was a good butcher. She knew her stuff
and heaven help a Minister who was unprepared. Tony Blair, by contrast, has been forced
into messy compromises either because ministers were unwilling to move, or because Gordon
Brown wanted them to stay. Tony Blair, on his own admission, is not of the Labour Party but
came into it via his wife. His roots are not from those of the organised working classes, but
because he had charm and great presentational skills he won over the doubters who could see
he would go down well with the voters in those seats Labour needed to win to form a
Government, i.e. Middle England. Part of his legacy will be to have turned Labour into a social
democratic party (just as Roy Jenkins wanted) and to have made it electable. But at what
cost? Blair came into power promising to be "whiter than white" but the latest scandal proves
what we already knew. The general public as a whole is cynical about all politicians no matter
the party and rightly so. Turnout at General Elections is at a record low. When I read in the
Daily Telegraph one day that the marketing guru who propelled David Cameron into the
leadership of our Party earns £276,000 a year and one of our own MP’s complains of the
sacrifice he has made to serve in Parliament (£200,000? including allowances), I shake my
head in disgust because in the world in which I live and for the people I meet it would take
eight to 10 years to earn such a sum: and what must old age pensioners, faced with ever
increasing bills, and on fixed incomes, think of such largesse? A couple of weeks ago I was
astounded to read that a single mother trying to earn a modest wage would be paying back to
the Government 70% of what she earned. If she increased her earnings from £7,500 to £8,500
she would pay an extra £220 in tax, £110 in National Insurance and lose Social Security
benefits of £370. So much for fairness in Gordon Brown’s Britain for the Chancellor, whilst
substantially increasing the public sector payroll, has not only devised the most complicated
tax and benefits system in history, but is also strangling the private profitable sector with
regulations, red tape and an ever rising tax burden, and some of the salaries on offer, in what
I regard as "Mickey Mouse" jobs, make the mind boggle. Labour is in the process of making
more and more people dependent on this state (is it really true that 44% of the population
rely on the state for more than half their income?), and the tragedy is that most people cannot
or do not realise we are sleep walking to disaster. The number of Labour MPs who have run a
business, with all the form filling and rules as outlined in countless Parliamentary Acts or
European Directives, can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Even though our
manufacturing base continues to shrink, small businesses are still the lifeblood of the
country. If Gordon Brown becomes Prime Minister and were the next election to result in a
"hung Parliament" in which he was forced to enter into a coalition with (say) the Liberal
Democrats, then the West Lothian question, postponed for so long, will have to be answered.
Let me give an example. Prescription charges in England are increasing by 15p per item.
Here, in Wales, because the Assembly has control, they are being reduced to £3 and are
likely to be abolished entirely in 2007/2008. So if you live in Oswestry in Shropshire you still
pay, yet in Welshpool 20 miles away, you will eventually pay nothing. This is Labour’s ‘fair’
United Kingdom which is why I cannot understand why our leader, David Cameron, wants to
be seen as the heir to Blair. Labour’s leaders in the late 50’s and 60’s, Hugh Gaitskell and
Harold Wilson, were social democrats yet we still won in 1959 and in 1970. And for those with
long memories, in 1970 Edward Heath won on a platform of smaller Government, lower taxes,
and control of the Trade Unions – policies which, for a variety of reasons, he was forced to
abandon but ones which Margaret Thatcher implemented. Ten years later, history is not all
bunk. I am all for modernising, but we can also learn from the past. After 1945 the
Conservative Research Department under R A Butler came to terms with the new situation
and 1951 ushered in not only 13 years of Conservative Government but some of the brightest
MPs in the Party’s long history, many of whom became senior ministers. The task, surely, is
to apply Conservative principles in a new and ever changing world. And I am truly astonished
to read in The Spectator that a Conservative MP believe "There is no appetite out there for a
smaller state". And why have we abandoned any idea of a flat rate of income tax? Are we
afraid that our opponents would claim we are only reducing the tax burden for the very rich?
Are head teachers, policemen, nurses, highly skilled workers, now classed as "very rich"
because what is known as "fiscal drag" has brought them into a 40% tax bracket? Is there
no-one in our Party capable of making the case? We have become mesmerised by the
Labour "spin" machine where every failure is classed as a success and, where any opinion
contrary to Labour doctrine, is rubbished.
Electorally, we are still a long way from power. And in the "cash for coronets" scandal we, as
a Party, need to ask ourselves serious questions. "Why", for example, "would Dr Chai Patel,
chief executive of the Priory Group of private hospitals, be willing to lend £1.5million to a
Party historically opposed to private medicine? It can only be to influence the decisions of the
Party in Government. And when Labour supports private medicine it is always for the good of
the public as a whole, unlike the greedy Tories who are only out for private gain. And do we
ever attempt to answer the charge? No, in the main our spokespersons become tongue-tied
and apologetic. And we are not helped by those in our Party who have openly said we are
perceived as "nasty" and "out of touch". At this point in time, there is no-one who is more
"out of touch" both with his Party and the British public than Tony Blair.
"New Labour" is in the twilight of its existence and has served its purpose. When Gordon
Brown takes over he will not be burdened by any Clause 4 Constitution demanding the
wholescale nationalisation of industry. Instead we will have an over bossy Government trying
to meddle in people’s every day lives and promising to give money to the next focus group
that takes its attention. The State will become the universal provider. Even now, through
advertising, we are being invited to contact the Inland Revenue if we think someone is not
paying tax. And we don’t even have to give our name and address. (Shades of 1984?)
Our Party needs to get its act together pretty quickly. David Cameron has appeal because he
is new and, in choosing him, I think our Party has shown that it is prepared to break with its
past. But he has to tread carefully and make sure that for every new supporter won,
traditional support is not eroded. It is a delicate balancing act. I agree that, with no election
until 2009/2010 it would be foolish to make specific proposals at this stage. But we need to
know the direction in which we are heading and how a Conservative Government would differ
from the present one. When we return to Government, the Thatcher and Major years will be
a fond memory for many, just as the Macmillan Government is a fond memory of my youth
and every Government since my youth has ended in failure, whether at the hands of the
electorate or at the hands of Members of Parliament. Tony Blair is just the most recent
casualty, as someone once said "All Governments end in failure".


***Star of the Week*** - Clive Stafford - Smith for his excellent lecture on "British politicians and the lessons they learn from America."   This was the Longford lecture organised by "The Independent" newspaper.    Every politician should read it.
Snouts in the Trough
What do the following have in common:
MPs demand a salary increase to £100,000 per annum on a par with doctors.
Cash for Peerages.
Labour Party now gets 90% of its funding from the Trade Unions.
State funding of political Parties.
MPs call on Serious Fraud Office to drop investigation into Saudi Arabian arms deal to save 50,000 jobs.
£20 billion to be spent on a replacement for a nuclear deterrent which will never be used.
Money and politics.   All these issues turn off the ordinary voter from having any respect for our politicians.    Soon the voter will demand a different kind of politician and a different kind of political party.   Time is running out.   Has the Conservative Party the courage to lead a new kind of political Party that will take these issues off the agenda?   We will find out in the next twelve months.   I hope so, or they will go down the plughole with the Labour Party.
CharityDid you know that last year the people of the United States gave $212 billion dollars to charity?   The people of the United Kingdom gave $8 billion.   We often criticise the United States government, but the people have hearts of gold.
Tossers
Whoever is the Tosser that came up with the idea of the Conservative "Tossers" broadcast should be fired.   What a Tosser.
Next Week
Report on the "A" List.    Watch this space.

***Star of the Week *** David Cameron - for his excellent speech about relative poverty.    It is so refreshing that David Cameron is raising issues which have been ignored for so long by our politicians.   These are issues which the Conservative Party needs to debate in order for us to get the policies right.    What is essential is for the Leader to begin involving the voluntary Party in these debates.   By involving them they will take ownership of and will accept the policies when they are announced in due course.   The alternative is to ignore the voluntary Party with the result that there will be a big ongoing row when the policies are announced and resentment will build.   Its up to you Dave!
Leadership Election Anniversary
At the COPOV meeting last Saturday there was a lively discussion about how David Cameron had done in his first year as Leader.    The audience was split about fifty fifty between those who thought he was doing well and those who thought otherwise.   Many took a neutral view, waiting to see what the policies would be before committing themselves (see above for a solution).    Among the comments were the following:
"The Party logo is a disaster done by a three year old with a box of crayons."
"The Leadership is surrounded by chinless wonders without any political experience"
"The webcam is a disaster"
"The Liberals are beginning to get their policies right."
"If we really want to win we have got to appeal to the public and not just to Conservatives."
"David Cameron is hitting the right spots."
"We must not say one thing and do another."
"We must back the Leader,    There is no other choice."
"Francis Maude is doing a good job."
"The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.   We do not want to lose the General Election in the same place."

House of Lords Reform
In the Queen's speech once again we have mention of House of Lords reform.   In a democracy this should mean a wholly elected second chamber.   However we do not live in a democracy, so the chances of getting a wholly elected second chamber are remote.   The Conservative Party supports an 80% elected Upper House.   Jack Straw seems to be moving towards a 50% elected Upper House, so it looks as though we might get something in between.    Hopefully the House of Commons on a free vote will take a decision and pass a Bill in support of an elected Upper House.  We have been waiting almost a hundred years since it was first promised.   The problem will then arise with the House of Lords itself.
There are huge vested interests in the House of Lords and the chances of them agreeing to whatever the House of Commons puts forward are virtually nil.   The question will then arise - will the House of Commons force the Bill through?   It will try, for it will be speaking for the people who overwhelmingly support an elected House of Lords.   The Upper House will then start to negotiate and here I begin to start worrying.   We are already hearing words about compensation for those Lords that lose their seats, but hold on. they do not receive a salary so why should they be compensated at all?   It would be the utmost obscenity if Peers that had bought their peerages or who were Tony's cronies or even who had inherited their seats were given any compensation paid by the taxpayer.
Let the people's voice be heard.   We want an elected House of Lords and no compensation paid  when this undemocratic system is scrapped.   What a cheek to even think it!
The Conservative Party
Is it just me or do you get the feeling that all has gone quiet in the Party?   As we approach the anniversary of Big Dave's election how is he doing?   Next Saturday we will be discussing this at the COPOV meeting.   We will let you know how the "grass roots" feel.    Watch this space.

The Politics of Fear
This week the head of MI5 - Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller made a speech in which she mentions that there are 200 British based networks currently hatching at least 30 terrorist plots in Britain.   Predictably the media and the politicians jumped on her speech and we were all plunged into a scenario of doom and gloom.   Tony Bliar said it would take a generation to eliminate the terrorist threat.
So what was the purpose of Dame Eliza's speech?    She could not be questioned as to how she arrived at her figures.    We do not know if they are accurate.   Suppose she had said there were 500 plots or a thousand?   Will she escalate the number with each speech?    In fact it is a matter of faith.   You either believe her or you don't.   If she wanted the public to take action why did she not say what action they should take?
Dame Eliza is a civil servant - not a politician, so we are meant to take her words seriously and to take them as the truth, yet the intelligence services are not noted for getting things right.   Was she making the speech on behalf of Tony Bliar?   Perhaps, because nobody believes a word Bliar says any more.   Was she protecting herself from criticism for a future undetected terrorist attack?   Was she making a case for more civil servants to be employed by MI5 thus boosting her empire and her status?   Was she laying the ground for Bliar to propose more legislation restricting our liberties?   We do not know, for politicians and media alike have laid back and just accepted every word she said.
What we do know is that throughout the centuries we have faced similar threats.   This week we remembered "Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot".   The Houses of Parliament were to be blown up.    It did not happen.   History should tell us to be cautious.    In the following substitute the Iraq war for the War against France and Bliar for Pitt and you will see what I mean.
War against France was declared in 1793. War meant that Pitt the Younger put aside whatever ideas of liberty he had ever held. Something very like panic seized the rulers of England. During 1793 and 1794 various men were tried for holding democratic opinions which we would now consider very ordinary; people were imprisoned merely for advocating "representative government". Two men, Thomas Muir, a prominent Scottish reformer, and Palmer were sentenced by the Scottish judge Lord Justice Braxfield, to transportation to Botany Bay for holding such opinions in making seditious speeches and circulatingThe Rights of Man. The presiding judge, Lord Justice Braxfield, was in no doubt that advocacy of parliamentary reform was in itself seditious.
Braxfield’s legendary bad temper developed into belligerent fury as he bellowed:
"Government in this country is made up of the landed interest, which alone has a right to be represented; as for the rabble, who have nothing but personal property, what hold has the nation of them? What security for the payment of their taxes? They may pack up all their property on their backs and leave the country in the twinkling of an eye…"
Thomas Muir had received strong support from a huge crowd both in the courtroom and outside, but it did not do him any good. Lord Justice Braxfield sentenced him to transportation to Australia for fourteen years.
In 1794 the Government suspended the Habeas Corpus Act, which meant that any suspected "Jacobins" could be seized and kept in prison without trial. Thus one of the fundamental bases of English liberty was attacked under the stress of panic caused by the French revolution.
After two enormous protest meetings in London in October 1795, the Home Secretary, a barnacled Whig called William Windham, introduced still more repressive legislation: the Seditious Meetings Act made it a criminal offence to take part in any meeting of more than 50 people without prior notice, and gave magistrates the right and duty to disperse any meeting they thought looked dangerous.
The Seditious Meetings Act, together with the Treasonable Practices Bill became known as Pitt’s "gagging Bills". They were a repressive response to discontent. Severe penalties were imposed on anybody who attacked the constitution or gave support to the nation’s enemies. Freedom of speech was effectively curtailed.
During the last years of the eighteenth century Pitt’s view of liberty and freedom changed. He had come to the conclusion that now restrictions were necessary in order to defend traditional liberty. What a change from the days during the passage of the India Bill when he said, "Necessity was the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It was the argument of tyrants. It was the creed of slaves." It was in this changed frame of mind that in April 1799 Pitt introduced:
a new Bill to suppress new radical organisations such as United Scotsmen and United Englishmen. It contained tighter regulations on lecturing and printing; Pitt argued that the liberty of the press was "the most invaluable bulwark of liberty", but that the provisions to enable the tracing of all publications to their publishers were necessary because "we have seen the liberty of the press abused in a way most calculated to pervert and mislead the lower orders".
Habeas Corpus was restored in 1800 but this did not stop repression from continuing.
Who today will defend our liberty?   Not the media, not the politician Who?

Sir Hayden Replies
This week the Chairman of COPOV had a reply from Sir Hayden Phillips to the original submission on Party Funding (for the Interim response seeRecommendations below).   Sir Hayden said:
"You make it very clear your views on the domestic structure of political parties.   The issue of the state legislating to affect a political party's internal structure and constitution, which is the effect of what you suggest, is within our political tradition one that elicits strong responses, and frequently negative ones.   With regard to the Labour Party, one of the arguments that has been made for not putting a cap on donations is that such a cap would force a change in the constitution of the Labour Party.   The Leader of the House, the Rt. Hon Jack Straw MP, made this argument in a debate two weeks ago (Hansard, 16 October 2006)."
The Chairman of COPOV responded to Sir Hayden as follows:
With regard to the comment you make in your letter about the democratic structures of political parties may I respond as follows:
    Under my proposals the Constitutions of both the Labour and the Conservative Parties would have to change. This would be the price to them for getting further funding from the State.
    Is it right that taxpayer’s money be given in effect to small oligarchies that run our two main political parties?
    It was because the Labour party had an elected Treasurer that the "Cash for Peerages" question came to light.
    Is it right in a democracy that 80% of the candidates in a General Election are chosen by political structures, which are undemocratic? Does this not undermine our democracy?
    I understand that New Zealand has laws relating to democracy within its political parties.
    Finally, the selling points of my proposals are:
They save the taxpayer money.
They enhance our democracy by having democratic political parties.
They put the political parties on a sound financial footing.
They encourage the parties to increase their membership.
They take the perception of financial influence out of our party politics.

There is one other point that could have been made regarding a political party having to change its constitution.   The Labour Party has been forced to accept that the people in Northern Ireland are entitled to be members of the Party.   It also looks as though the Labour Party will have to have Party branches in Northern Ireland, so it is not unique for external forces to make a political Party change its constitution.

Party Funding
Sir Hayden Phillips published his Interim Assessment on Party Funding this week.   We set out below our response.   If our proposals are accepted the taxpayer will save money, the television companies will save money and the political parties finances will be put onto a sound basis.   In addition to which they will become democratic organisations accountable to their membership.   What an opportunity!
The Review of the Funding of Political Parties
An Interim Assessment – Response
Questions for Discussion
Scenario 1
  • Do you think the current system (with a few minor changes) needs further time to bed in before thinking of more radical change?
No. The current system is in disrepute. The two main political Parties are in serious financial difficulty and action is urgent to avoid a crisis. Action is required as soon as possible.
Scenario 2
    • Do you favour the specific ideas described in scenario 2 for increasing transparency?
No. The increased amount of information about an individual donor is an invasion of privacy. The only criterion for an individual donor is that they should be on the Register of Electors.
Only individual donors should be allowed to make donations in excess of £5,000. Corporations, Unincorporated Associations and Trade Unions should be restricted to a maximum donation of £5,000. The decision to make a political donation should be made by an individual. Unincorporated Associations have been used on occasion to hide the identities of individuals.
    • What do you think of the idea of decreasing the amount parties can spend nationally on campaigning?
The amount spent on national campaigning should be reduced to a maximum of £15 million in any one year.
    • Do you think that the amount that can be spent on local campaigning should be increased?
The local campaigning limits seem to be about right so should not be increased
Scenario 3
  • What do you think of the proposal that donations should be capped?
Donations from individuals should be capped at £25,000. From any other organisation, including Trade Unions, they should be capped at £5,000. At present the Conservative Party has proposed that donations should be capped at £50,000. They have 60-70 individuals that give that amount to the Party. By decreasing the cap to £25,000 it can safely be said that the number of individuals would increase to a point where no one individual could buy influence.
Scenario 4
  • Do you support the principle that additional public funds should go to political parties?
In principal political parties should not receive any additional public funds. They should stand or fall on their own endeavours. However they are in such a critical condition at the moment that funding is required to help them put their houses in order and to prevent a collapse in the political system. Any additional funding should be phased out over a period of five years. This would give them time to adjust their operating methods.
  • If so, do you support the idea of a general cash subsidy or a more targeted grant or the idea of financial incentives to encourage small donations?
I support the idea of a financial incentive to encourage membership of political parties. To enhance democracy the State should pay a per capita amount (say £25.00) to each political party dependent on the number of audited members of the party paying a minimum subscription of £10.00 and subject to the parties having democratic constitutions. This would encourage them to concentrate on building up their membership.
Members would only be included that had paid a subscription in the previous 15 months.
The Interim Assessment states p62 "If the figures were audited externally to control this, it would remove the current confidentiality over who belongs to a party." Auditors are bound by their professional code of conduct to respect confidentiality. Any breach would therefore be a breach of their code and be subject to discipline by their professional body.
The question of confidentiality should not therefore be an obstacle.
With reference to the Trade Unions and Labour Party membership, the Unions could be regarded as acting as Agents of the Labour party in collecting subscriptions for membership. Once a Trade Union had passed the minimum subscription (£10 per member) to the Labour party those members would have all the rights of a Party member whose subscription had been collected directly by the Party.
Any other payment by a Trade Union would be limited to a maximum of £5,000. This would curb the abuse whereby the government paid £10 million to the Trade Unions Modernisation Fund under the Employment Relations Act of 2004 and the Unions then paid £12 million to the Labour Party in 2005.
General
  • Which elements of the above scenarios do you think are most important?
The most important is tying any further funding to membership and phasing the funding out over a period of five years.
  • Are there any issues, which you think are important that we have not covered?
The Policy Development Grants should be abolished. They are a crude mechanism for giving more State funding, and are biased in favour of those Parties with Members of Parliament.
I set out below the financial situation of the proposals where it is possible to do so:
                                                                            £
Abolish Policy Development Grants - saving     (2,000,000)
Abolish free post at a General Election saving - (20,000,000)
Subsidy based on membership – extra                15,000,000
Saving to the Taxpayer in year one £                  7,000,000
As the subsidy is diminished each year the saving to the taxpayer increases. Taken as a whole I believe the above proposals would be acceptable to the people and would solve the current problems. For a taxpayer neutral effect the subsidy per member could be increased to £35.00 in year one. I set out below my full recommendations amended from my initial report.

Recommendations:
Both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party should reform themselves to become democratic bodies answerable to their membership so that the members can change the Constitution of their Party on the basis of One Member One Vote.
All political Parties should have elected Chairman and Treasurer answerable to their membership.
All political Parties should have an Annual General Meeting to which their members are invited and entitled to vote at which the Parties accounts are presented and voted upon.
There should be no State Funding to any political Party which does not have basic democratic rules incorporating the above.
To enhance democracy the State should pay a per capita amount (say £25.00) to each political party dependent on the number of audited members of the party paying a minimum subscription of £10.00 and subject to the parties having democratic constitutions. This would encourage them to concentrate on building up their membership. The subsidy would diminish by 20% each year and be completely abolished after five years.
There should be a limit on the amount that a government can spend on political advisers. An equivalent sum to their costs should be given to the opposition Parties. This should replace the "Short" funding. These monies should be properly accounted for.
The "free" post at parliamentary elections should be abolished.
Party Political Broadcasts (PPBs) should be abolished.
Policy Development Grants should be abolished.
The amount of money, which a Member of Parliament or a Member of the European Parliament can give to their party, should be limited to £1,000.00.
Expense allowances given to MPs or European MPs should not be used for Party purposes.
Donations may only be accepted from individuals who are on the Electoral Register. The maximum amount an individual can give is £25,000
The Trade Unions, Companies and Unincorporated Associations should not be allowed to donate more than £5,000 in any one year.
The maximum amount that any Party can spend on national campaigning in any one year is £15 million.
The Trade Unions may act as Agents of a political Party for the purpose of collecting membership subscriptions.
Politics for the People
In Portcullis House there has been a very interesting,or so I am told, exhibition about Charles Fox and William Pitt.    There was just one snag.  If you were an ordinary member of the public you could only go and see it if you were accompanied by a pass holder for Portcullis House.   It did not matter if you went through all the security checks.    No pass holder, no exhibition.   At a time when we should be encouraging the people to take an interest in politics isn't it a bit bizarre that when they show an interest they are barred from entry.   No wonder the turn out at elections is down.
Target Seats
The current rules on the selection of Party Candidates are contained in the document: "Rules and best practise for the selection of Conservative Party Candidates in Target and Conservative Held Seats in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for the UK Parliament".
There is some ambiguity here. Does it mean that Constituencies, which are not "Target" or "Conservative Held", can select their candidates in accordance with the previous rules? There is no definition of "Target" seats. They are determined pragmatically, which we do not object to, but who decides whether or not a seat is a "Target" seat? Do the Constituency Associations have any right of appeal? If so whom do they appeal to?

Rules for Selection
In the recently published "Rules and best practise for the selection of Conservative Party candidates in Target and Conservative held Seats in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for the UK Parliament" where is Target defined?   Is a Target seat decided by % swing needed to win or is it number of votes needed to win?   Have the Boundary changes been taken into account?   Who has decided which seats are Targets and which or not?   Have local views been taken into account?   Has the Party Board issued a list of these seats or is it the Committee on Candidates which has decided?   I think we should be told.   After all, nonTarget seats do not have to comply with these rules, or do they?
The War in Iraq is Lost
The war in Iraq is lost because Iraq as a nation has ceased to exist.   A Nation consists of people who together regard themselves as belonging to a Nation.   Their overriding loyalty is to the Nation.   The people in the land known as Iraq no longer see this as the case.    What has happened is that Iraq has reverted to a pre democracy primeval age where small groups occupy territory by the use of force.
Small tribes now control the territory once known as Iraq.   These small tribes or groups use force within their territory and to defend the boundaries of their territory.   In using force they are ruthless.   The members of the group or tribe give their allegiance to the Leader of the group in exchange for security within the territory.   The comparison is to the pre "Witan" days in England.   In this scenario all foreigners are enemies to be destroyed and rebuffed.   In time these small groups will start to amalgamate and form alliances knowing that size gives them strength.    It may be that eventually they will form three main groups of Sunni, Shia and Kurds.   At that time the peoples of those groups may begin to take on nationhood, and three new nations will be created.   Who Knows? 
What is certain is that for the United States and the British their war is over.   It is time for them to pull out immediately.   It is too late to turn back the clock.   The small groups will impose their own rule of law.   Only then will we possibly see a move towards democracy, but do not count on it.   The rule of law is a prerequisite for democracy, which is why Tony Bliar and George Bush got it so wrong.    Democracy is a process.   It is not just a ballot.   That is only a part of the process.   The supreme irony is that the great Western Powers planned to bring Iraq into the twenty first century whereas what they have done is to push it back to the nineteenth century.
The Veil
Much has been made about whether it is right that a schoolteacher should be allowed to wear the veil when teaching children.    What if the schoolgirls she taught decided that they would wear the veil?    How would the teacher know who was doing or saying what.   The situation is absurd.
The General
General Dannat made some very important points about the position of British troops in Iraq.   Unfortunately he went into the realm of politics.   This is unacceptable.   He should have resigned, made his speech, and then announced he would stand against Tony Bliar in the next General Election.   He would have had the support of the entire Nation.

Selection of Conservative Party CandidatesIn September a new issue was made of "Rules and best practise for the selection of Conservative Party candidates in Target and Conservative held Seats in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for the UK Parliament".    Have you noticed anything?   They only apply to Target and Conservative held seats.   Does this mean that the rest can do as before without interference from Central Office?   There is much gobbledook in these new rules any potential candidate could well be put off just reading them.    There is also some good stuff as well in particular the rights of members to have the ultimate decision on a candidate.   This is welcome.
In the Introduction to the rules it says: "Potential candidates have been admitted to the Approved List only after they have demonstrated that they have the potential and the right skill mix to be a Member of Parliament".   Demonstrated to who?   The little oligarchy on the Candidates Committee?   Who are they to determine who has the potential and the right skill mix?   Is this the same setup which has produced Tory MPs 40 % of whom have Oxbridge degrees, 59% went to private school and 20% have practised as a barrister or solicitor.   Cosy isn't it?
The Introduction then goes on to say "A number of the brightest and best candidates have been nominated "priority candidates" and Conservative held and target seats will be expected to select from these priority candidates."   So now we know!   There are currently 747 on the full candidates list of which 149 are on the priority list.    So we have 149 brightest and best and 598 dullest and worst.
Contoversially the Introduction also says "research has shown that our members and particularly our activists are drawn from a relatively small cross-section of society."   What research?    Who by?   What research has shown is that our members are similar to society in all ways except that they are older and in this case they are similar to older members of our society.   The implication of this is that they are not able to choose a parliamentary candidate.   Why else make the comment.    Perhaps we should remind the great and good that it was these same members that elected David Cameron as Leader of the Party with a thumping majority.    What is good for the goose is good for the gander?
We will return to the absurdities of this document at a later date.
Constituency BoundariesWe are amazed to learn that where there has been boundary reorganisation there are no rules and giudlines as to how the constituencies deal with this.   What has happenned to the excellent giudlines used in the past?    Were they all lost when Central Office moved to Victoria Street?    Is there nobody there that can remember them?   So now we start to reinvent the wheel.   What a farce!
The "A" List
At the National Convention Don Porter (Chairman of the Convention) announced that there would be a review of the candidate selection process.   Regional Chairmen will contact constituencies for their comments.   It was also announced that John Strafford (Chairman of COPOV), Cllr Derek Tipp and Mike Baker have been asked to review the process.   We have already started, having had a meeting with Shireen Ritchie (Chairman of the Candidates Committee) and also held a fringe meeting at Bournemouth.   We have made it clear that we agree with David Cameron's objectives of getting more women and ethnic minority Conservative MPs.   We also made it clear that we want to see the "A" List abolished for we think that the "A" List is the wrong way to go about achieving these objectives.
The timetable for producing our report is very tight.   It has to be completed by November 11th with a view to it going to the Party Board by 25th November.   We would welcome any views on Candidate Selection, both as to how the Candidates Committee works and how the Constituency selection process works.   Any views submitted will be treated as confidential unless the sender agrees for their views to be public.   We would particularly welcome any ideas on how David Cameron's objectives could be met by a fair democratic process.   Send your views to Candidate Feedback
Party Conference
This was a good conference for the Conservative Party.   There were some excellent speeches in the Conference hall and particularly in the fringe meetings.   Big Dave did all that was expected of him.   He set out the direction we were going and his values.   His strategy is working.   The crunch will come over the next twelve months as policies are announced.   There are two issues that have to be resolved.     The first is the "A" list (see above) and the second regarding policy development will be essential if we are to remain united as a Party.    At the moment the ordinary "grass roots" members are not on board the Cameron project.   They are neutral.   They want to see what will happen on policy.   The way to get the members on board is to involve them in policy development.   So far they have been excluded.   This cannot go on.    It must be changed.   The Conservative Policy Forum has a crucial role to play in this.   It should hold meetings around the country to discuss policy in depth.   The meetings should exclude the media so that full and frank discussion can take place.   Party members should be invited to these meetings.
There were several brilliant innovations at the conference.   It was a great idea to have voting machines.     Properly used these could revolutionise conference, but do not use them for froth.   Have them for real debates on policy.   We must have motions for debate with the ability to amend them.   Allow proper speeches ( 4 minutes) so that a point can be made in depth.   The "dragon's den" sessions were better than expected but do not have so many on the panel judging them and have a policy detail rather than a broad motion.
The set was without doubt the best in recent years.   Congratulations to Central Office.   The pass situation was diabolical.   Someone's head should roll.   It was a great idea to allow text messaging on the big screen but only show them between speeches.   It is very distracting when the speaker is speaking.   You either listen to the speech or read the text.
Built to Last or Jerry Built?
In a poll of COPOV members at Saturday's meeting when asked how they were going to vote on the Built to Last document we had the following result:
                                        For                     17%
                                        Against              50%
                                        Abstentions       33%
Those that were against were against because of omissions from the document.   The subjects which caused most concern were Foreign policy.   There is a growing feeling in the grass roots that we should get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, that we should spend our money on better equipment for our troops and have more troops rather than on the Trident nuclear submarine.
There was also strong feeling that we wanted lower taxes and that the Party is making a big mistake in thinking that because this did not resonate with the electorate at the last election it will not do so at the next general election.   Strong immigration controls were required and lastly the issue of Europe has to be resolved once and for all.   It is undemocratic and unless this is altered there is a growing feeling that we should pull out.
We do not claim that this is a representative sample of members but it is interesting how many will vote against and how many will abstain regarding what is a fairly innocuous document.   are the grass roots developing a rebellious mood?   If so it is probably because of the way thay have been treated over the selection of parliamentary candidates.
Association of Constituency Chairmen
Many Constituency Association Chairmen are increasingly fed up with the way they are rubber stamped at the National Convention and there are moves to create a new body called the Association of Constituency Chairmen which can represent the views of the Chairmen.   If any Chairmen are interested in this development let me know.   Their interest will be kept strictly confidential and there names will not be disclosed to anybody without their consent.    At present six Chairmen have expressed an interest.
Party Conference
COPOV and the Charter Group are organising a fringe meeting on the selection of parliamentary candidates.   Further details will be announced in due course.
On Tuesday 3rd October at 1pm at the Heritage Hotel, New Politics Network are organising a fringe meeting on Party funding: supporting grassroots activity
Speakers will include Rt. Hon. Francis Maude MP, Andrew Tyrie MP and the Chairman of COPOV John Strafford.   Do come it should be interesting!

Nazisraeli War CrimeIt was announced this week by the United Nations that 100,000 cluster bombs had been dropped in Southern Lebanon during the last three days of the fighting.   These cluster bombs should be made illegal as they will kill innocent civilians for years to come unless removed.   There can be no justification for their use and the Nazisraelis should be charged with War crimes accordingly.
Movement for European Reform
The Conservative Party set out this week the mission and functions of the Movement for European Reform.   What a weak document it proved to be.   Only one European politician was mentioned in the document - Mirek Topolanek - who we understand has some personal problems to sort out and that was it.   It has no budget, no Director, no office, nothing.    In fact it looks like one big sop.   Will it last?   I doubt it.
"Any Questions?"
Who in Central Office put up Shireen Ritchie to appear on Any Questions?   She seemed all at sea churning out the responses parrot like as she was no doubt briefed by Central Office.   In answer to one question I counted no less than 24 umms and errs.   Now Shireen is a pleasant woman who can make pleasant conversation but she is not a politician, she has not been elected either as a politician or as Chairman of the Candidates Committee so who put her up?   We have almost 200 MPs.   Could we not find at least one of them, and would it not have been even better if we had put up one of the "A" list women, or would that have been too risky?   Shireen, stick to the back room.   Your job is to promote the candidates, not yourself.

Stop Digging Dave
This week Big Dave made another statement about candidate selection.    What a disaster for Party democracy?   What is he trying to do?    Does he not realise how demotivating it is for grass roots members to be told that it was alright for them to vote for him as Leader but not for their local Parliamentary candidate?   When he asked them to vote for him did he say that he was going to eliminate democracy within the Party?   We set out below the changes that are now to be implemented.   This is Dictatorship of the worst kind.   Watch membership plummet, then watch the Tory Party grovel to the Government for State Funding.   What a shame.
Change to win
When the Priority List was announced, we said we would take stock in August. Today we are
announcing further reforms to build on this early progress.
• The Priority List has been expanded as planned. Press reports that the Priority List has been
‘watered down’ or doubled in size are incorrect. The size of the Priority List is now around
150, of whom nearly 60 per cent are women.
• For the next round of selections, target seat Associations with fewer than 300 members will
be expected to select their candidate through an open primary, where anyone on the electoral
roll in the constituency can vote.
• Larger target and Conservative-held seat Associations will have a choice between adopting
(a) an open primary; (b) an all-women short-list; or (c) the Executive Council making the
final choice, but with members having a greater involvement in the early stages.
More choice for Associations
1. Open primary. Target seat and Conservative-held Associations will be able to adopt a fully
open primary; or
2. All-women short-list. As is already the case, they can instead choose to adopt an all-women
short-list; or
3. More involvement for members early on. As a new third option, the full membership will
select a short-list of four, of which at least two must be women. (In certain circumstances,
the short-list could be shorter, but must always comprise at least 50 per cent women). The
final selection will then be made by the Executive Council, after rigorous and professional
job interviews. This will allow for more involvement by Party members early on, and more
detailed scrutiny by local activists in the final round.
There are many Constituency Associations with less than 300 members.   These Associations will now have to have open primaries.   We do not object to this as long as the final vote of endorsement of the candidate is put to the membership, but there has been no promise of this.   If the members do not have a vote they will have been disenfranchised.    The average Conservative membership in a Constituency is 300, so half the Constituencies will be disenfranchised.   What a disgrace?   What about the others?
Those with over 300 members can have an open primary as above.   The members will lose their vote or to be precise their vote will only count as much as any Labour or Liberal Democrat member.
Alternatively they can have an all woman short list.   In which case they have been denied the dignity of choice and denied their democratic rights.
Or finally it can be left up to   the Executive to choose the candidate - an Executive which will have been manipulated beforehand by the Party hierarchy.   The members lose their vote.
All in all this is one of the most vicious attacks on Party democracy in the Party's history.   If successful turn out the lights on the voluntary Conservative Party, and David Cameron will go down in history as the man that killed it.
Labour's Idea of Party Funding
Labour’s increasing reliance on the unions.
The Electoral Commission today published figures for donations to political parties in the second quarter of 2006. These showed that Labour received a total of £3.4 million in donations, of which £2.5 million, or 74 per cent came from the unions. This compares to a total of £5,819,668 in the second quarter of 2005, of which £3,511,411, or 60 per cent, came from the unions (Electoral Commission).

Labour rejects reform of union funding
In the NEC consultation on the future of party funding, Labour say that they: ‘….totally reject any assertion by our political opponents that the affiliated link is one of the problems in party funding.’ (NEC consultation: the future of party funding, June 2006, p.41)

The Reality: Unions Controlling Labour
In Government, Labour has granted wide-ranging concessions to the unions:

• Under an agreement reached with the unions in July 2004, the ‘Warwick Agreement’, Labour agreed over 60 concessions, including the watering down of anti-strike legislation and additional Government funding for the unions. In return, the unions agreed to provide funding for Labour’s 2005 General Election campaign.

• Labour introduced the Employment Relations Act 2004 which created a £10 million ‘modernisation fund’ for the unions, with few conditions attached.

• Labour bowed to union pressure and shelved plans to force existing public sector employees to retire at 65.

Labour continue to be funded by the unions:

• During 2005, over half of Labour’s funding came from the unions. Out of a total £21,716,133 donated to Labour in 2005, £11,972,816 came from the unions (Electoral Commission).

• Since the beginning of 2001, around two thirds of Labour’s funding has come from the unions. The Labour Party has received £82 million in donations, of which £52 million has come from the unions (Electoral Commission).

The unions continue to govern the Labour Party:

• They account for one third of the votes for the next leader of the Labour Party.

• They make Labour Party policy through the National Policy Forum.

• They exercise a 50 per cent block vote on policy motions debated at the Labour Party conference.

So now we see that both of the main political Parties are undemocratic.   The people know this so expect a minuscule turnout at the next election.
Did You Know?
From 1998 to 2004 we have had 24,468 new regulations imposed on the British people by this dictatorial government.    Nobody now knows what the law is.   Do you?
The "A" List
Will they never learn?   We are told that the "A" List is being expanded to 150 and of this women will comprise 60%.   Is Central Office stupid or just plain thick?   We now have a situation where 90 women are on the list out of the original 110 women candidates and 60 men out of the original 440 candidates so women have an 11 to 9 chance of being on the list whereas men have a 22 to 3 chance of being on the list.   As a result by their own criteria because it is so much more difficult for the men, those that are on the list will be of a higher calibre than the women.   Do not be surprised when the Constituency Associations choose men.   This system is fundamentally flawed.    It should be scrapped forthwith.   It is a blemish on the Cameron leadership which should be removed.
Built to Last
The new Built to last document was published this week.   The original document was vacuous junk and quite rightly it was recognised by the powers that be that it had to be changed.   The new document is not much better but at least we are beginning to see some specific policies spelt out and generally they are pretty good.   Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy - Giving the House of Commons power to vote on Treaties and Wars - Responding to the West Lothian question - a Bill of Rights - abolishing Regional Assemblies.   These are all excellent policies.   I am also delighted that Northern Ireland gets a mention.
Overall the document is now 50% vacuous junk which nobody will take exception to, so I expect a 100% vote in favour of it but do not expect a very high turn out.   Will we be given the total  of those entitled to vote i.e. the total membership as well as those that do vote?   Will the Electoral Reform Society monitor the voting?   Will they put this additional question on the voting paper "Is this a sensible way to spend Party money?"    I wait in anticipation.
Tesco
If anybody thinks that the days of the public meeting are over they have never been to one of the excellent Intelligence squared debates that are held at the 600 seat Royal Geographical Society.   There is usually a good sized audience, but the next debate is already sold out and has been for several weeks.   The subject is "Long Live Tesco".   As a resident of Gerrards Cross which has had a half built Tesco store in the centre which nobody wanted I just wonder how many tickets Tesco have bought up for the debate?

Terrorist Attack
There are two facts that have emerged in the last few days.    They are:
1) 23 people have been arrested.
2) The police have alleged that there was a terrorist plot.
Everything else is pure speculation.   What has happened to Freedom, Liberty and Justice in the United Kingdom when government Ministers speculate about alleged incidents?   Hours of television coverage, pages of newsprint - all speculation.   The media's behaviour has been disgraceful.   We should remember that as yet nobody has been charged and nobody has been tried. 
At the height of the Second World War in 1943 Winston Churchill said "The power of the executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers, is in the highest degree odious, and the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."
Read that again.   Is this what the United Kingdom has come to?   I wonder.
Congratulations Don!
Congratulations are in order to Don Porter first of all for sending out a Board Report and then a Strategy document to all Constituency Chairmen.    There was not much of interest in the Board Report, but at least it is a start in improving communication between Central Office and the Constituencies.    How about a quarterly report on membership numbers Don?
The Strategy Team Update contained more substance and was very helpful in showing what is being done and who by.   Several points arise from it:
a)    There are going to be 3 additional MPs on the Party Board.   They will not have voting rights.   Will they be elected by the Parliamentary Party?   If not how will they be selected and on what basis?   As they will be put in a position of influence who will they be accountable to?   How about three non voting members of the voluntary party on the Board?
b)    We are promised "genuine debate and the opportunity to shape direction with greater membership engagement" at the Party Conference.   Does this mean we will have motions for debate?    Will the motions be capable of amendment?   Will there be votes taken?   Will speakers from the floor have three or four minutes to put their points or will it be the usual frothy one minute please?
c)    Finally Don, you state that you "do not believe it appropriate to report confidential financial information in this format."   In what format would you publish financial information?    The biggest area of mistrust between the Constituencies and Central Office is over how the centre spend money.   This could be remedied by publishing at the beginning of the financial year a budget for the year and then each quarter showing the actuals against budget.   This would help enormously to break down the distrust.    Time after time we hear from Board members that the finances are under strict control and then when the Party's Accounts are published we see we are in another financial crisis.   Nobody ever takes the can for this.   Every new person says what a shambles they have taken over.    This has to stop.    How about it Don?
Short List
There was recently published a list of the 26 new Labour women MPs elected at the 2005 General Election.   Many of them came about as a result of all women short lists.   I did not recognise a single one.   Without looking it up can anybody who is not a Labour Party member name five of them?

Nazisraelis
Once again we have seen the shock and awe tactics from the nazisraelis.   How long can this go on?   500 dead, one million refugees in Lebanon.   It could all have been prevented if the United States had said STOP, but they didn't.   The people of the World demand an unconditional immediate cease fire on both sides, but the bullies ignore it.    The Nazisraeli tanks have rolled into Lebanon.   They should withdraw.   Nobody objects to Israel defending itself.   Nobody objects to Israel targeting rocket launchers, but we do object to the wholesale destruction of a country.   We equally condemn Hezbollah for its random attacks on Israel.   Nobody objects to Hezbollah attacking the Nazisraelis when they are occupying Lebanon.   Nobody objects when they target Nazisraeli tanks, but we all object to attacks on innocent civilians.
It is time the Conservative party spoke up.    William Hague was right to condemn the disproportionality of Israel's response.   We hear Liam Fox is unhappy with our role in Afghanistan.    We should withdraw.   Big Dave opposed the Iraq war.   We should withdraw.   British foreign policy is in a mess.   The Conservative Party has a lot of work to do.
London Mayor
Now that the selection process for a candidate for London mayor has been extended the opportunity should be taken to add to the process the requirement that the candidate that wins will have to be endorsed at a meeting of London Party members.   This will give members ownership of the process and motivate them to help.   Without it look forward to a flat campaign.
"A" List
We hear that some of the "A" list are going to be chucked off because they have not applied for any seats.   At the same time 100 have been added to the list.   What a farce this is.    Scrap it now before it does any more harm.   To ask anybody to give up their job, move house and work as a candidate for three to four years without a guarantee of success at the end of it is cloud cuckoo land.   It would mean only the wealthy could do it.   There is increasing evidence that ordinary Party members are becoming more and more resentful at the way they are being treated.    Membership is falling.   Time for action.
Incidentally, if the "A" list is supposed to be more representative of the country how many manual workers are on the list?    Lord Woolton always said that the most important reform which he brought into the Tory Party was the provision that no MP or candidate could give more than £100 to his Association.   It stopped wealthy MPs and candidates buying seats.    It also brought into Parliament the first Conservative Trade Unionist MP - Ray Mawby.   At a time when it is once again becoming very expensive to be a Conservative candidate we should remember Lord Woolton.
Built to Last
We hear that the Party is going to have the vote on this fatuous document done by telephone.   It will use an 08 pay no. so make a profit on the exercise.   Having campaigned for over ten years for the Party to use this system we are delighted that at last it is being taken up.    What a pity its first use is on such an appalling useless exercise.

We are all Nazis now
Every nation has the right to defend itself.    Every nation has the right to declare war when another nation attacks it.    Every nation has the right to target terrorists when those terrorists are attacking it, but Israel has gone further.   What would have been said about the United Kingdom if we had bombed Dublin because the IRA had mounted an attack on Belfast from the Irish Republic, as they so often did?
There is no justification for Israel to bomb red cross ambulances.
There is no justification for Israel to kill 500 innocent people in the Lebanon.
There is no justification for Israel to bomb convoys of fleeing refugees.
There is no justification for Israel to create 500,000 refugees
There is no justification for Israel to ethnically cleanse an area of another country.
There is no justification for Israel to hold 800 Arabs without charge or trial.
There is no justification for Israel to bomb Beirut Airport.
There is no justification for Israel to bomb and destroy 55 bridges.
There is no justification to bomb unarmed United Nations personnel.
There is no justification for Israel to drop cluster bombs.
Does this remind you of the tactics employed by a regime in the 1930s?   Yes the Nazis!
The entire world with the exception of the United Kingdom and the United States condemns the actions of Israel as being disproportionate.   So what does the United States do?   The President, Dr. Strangelove send bombs and other weapons to Israel so they can use them against innocent people.   We should not be surprised, after all the Government of the United States is controlled by the major arms manufacturers and the big oil companies.   They have a vested interest in keeping this going.   What about the other Israeli collaborator, the United Kingdom?   Well Dr. Strangelove's poodle gives permission to the United States to use Britain as a staging post for the transport of the bombs  for Israel's use.
I am ashamed of the action of the United Kingdom Government which is acting in the name of the British people.   When you collaborate with those that act in the same way as the Nazis do not be surprised if that is how the rest of the World sees you.   We are all Nazis now.  
Where, oh where is the Conservative voice?
We should be demanding an immediate cease fire.
We should be giving the United Nations 100% support.
We should withdraw our troops from Iraq.
We should withdraw our troops from Afghanistan.
We should apologise to the World for the mess we have caused.
We should demand the recall of Parliament so that we can table a motion of impeachment against the worst, most disastrous Prime Minister this country has ever had.   Will we?   I doubt it.    It is easier to talk about hugging hoodies, "A" list candidates, or fatuous "Built to Last" documents.   If ever the country needed a Leader to get us out of this mess it is now.   We can only pray that one will emerge.   Justice will only be served when eventually Tony Blair is indicted for War crimes.
Built to Last
The Built to Last road show is trundling around the country with ever decreasing audiences.   This meaningless document should have been thrown in the rubbish bin.   We are told that Party members will have a vote on it.   Will the vote be counted by the Electoral Reform Society?   Will they give the number of spoilt ballot papers?   If so, we recommend that every member spoils their ballot paper or abstains to demonstrate their contempt for such a ridiculous vote when there are so many critically important matters that have to be decided, on which they will not even be consulted let alone have a ballot on.
Parliamentary Candidate Selection
Many Constituencies are in the process of choosing their Parliamentary candidate.   There is much confusion going on.
The rules on parliamentary selection are contained within the constitution of the Conservative Party Schedule 7.   However the candidates committee appointed by the Party Board produced a document called "Rules and best practise for the Selection of Conservative Candidates etc." in 1999.    There have been since then a number of further recommendations from this committee.   Any challenge to what they recommend is met by a clause in the Party Constitution which states:
"The Board shall have power to do anything which in its opinion relates to the management and administration of the Party"

The power of the Board is backed up by its ability under the constitution to place a constituency into "Support Status", which effectively means that they take over the Association. The whole process has become very undemocratic.   Prior to the Hague reforms the Constituency Association was all powerful.   Now it is the Party Board.
At the National Convention last October COPOV tried to get the Chairman of the Candidates Committee elected by and accountable to the Convention. This proposal was kicked into the long grass but we will return to it.
One other point which should be made is that as the process has become confused huge power has been put into the hands of the Regional Directors that oversee each selection.   They interpret the rules as they see fit or as they are told to do by Central Office.   Dangerous.
Conservative Party Accounts Analysis
  • It looks as though membership is slightly down in spite of the surge in membership when the new Leader was elected.   The per capita levy dropped to £312,000 from £319,000.   Membership is almost certainly below 250,000.   Why doesn't the Conservative Party show membership figures?   The Labour Party does.
  • The Party seems to be suffering from a vast increase in bureaucracy with committees by the bucketful and lots of appointed Vice Chairmen.   Who has heard of the "Individuals" Committee?    What do all these people do?   This is a good reason why the Party should have an Annual General Meeting at which the the Board would report and the Accounts of the Party would be presented, just like any other transparent democratic organisation.    If it did, the rubber stamp National Convention could be scrapped.    It has become a total waste of time.
  • In the Treasurers Report written in July 2005 accompanying the Accounts for the year ended 31st December 2004 Jonathan Marland said "We are continuing to impose tight controls, through the Finance Committee, and we are working towards our break-even budget for 2005".   So what was the result - a Deficit for the year of £14,999,000 and this after receiving £4,586,000 in State Funding.   Do we no longer understand the English language?    Some break even!   Never mind, for these abysmal results the Treasurer received his peerage.   The Party now has negative assets of over £18,000,000.   It is a disgrace, so what does the Party have to say about it?     "Its not as bad as Labour who now have a Deficit of over £27,000,000".   On the other hand Labour's deficit for the year was of a similar amount to the Tories and they did not have the benefit of State funding.    Also included in Labour's total deficit is  provision of over £6,000,000 for pension liabilities.   The Conservative Party neatly skates round creating a provision, presumably on the grounds that some of the Agents are not their employees.    It really is time that we had a Party Treasurer elected by the members and accountable to the members otherwise this shambles will continue until one day we wake up to find that we are bust.
  • In 2004  the Party received £762,000 income from commercial activities.   In 2005 this went up to £2,388,000.    Good you might say, but on closer examination we made a profit on commercial activities in 2004 of £580,000 whereas in 2005 the profit was only £93,000.    At this rate it will not be long before we are losing money on commercial activities.
  • Finally we have the weird situation regarding 32 Smith Square.   In the Accounts at 31st December 2005 the lease of the building is shown as having a value of £10,000,000.   Then we were told that the Party had bought the freehold with a bank loan for £15,000,000 because it could sell the it for £25-30 million.   In the mean time costs are being incurred, interest paid,  the costs of moving to Victoria St together with the costs of the lease there.   All in order to make a profit of between nil and £5 million.    What is going on?   Rumours of a foreign company's involvement are emerging.   It is time someone came clean and told us exactly what the position is.    
European Candidate Selections
Recently the National European Forum (never heard of it? - Chairman is appointed) met and set up a working group to look at the process for the selection of candidates for the next elections to the European Parliament.    These elections will be conducted on the discredited Regional List system which should be scrapped but which at the moment we can do nothing about.    Already the sitting MEPs are lobbying for the selection process to be changed so that at a meeting of Regional Officers, Area Officers and Constituency Chairmen, if the sitting MEPs get more than 50% of the vote they go through on to the list without having to go to the hustings as happened last time.   In their view this would put them on a par with Westminster MPs who only have to get a 50% vote of their Executive to be reselected.
In our view every Westminster MP should appear before a General Meeting of the Constituency Association for endorsement.    This always was the case when we had to hold Adoption meetings.    If Constituencies no longer do this then they should.   As far as sitting MPs and MEPs are concerned if they are unable to obtain the votes of the members necessary to be reselected then perhaps they do not deserve reselection.   It is called accountability.   COPOV will strongly fight to retain members rights and for all candidates to go to the hustings so that members can vote on them.   Not to have this would be another setback for democracy within the Conservative Party.
Another point in the reselection of MEPs is this.   If they go through after a meeting of Regional Officers etc. where will they appear on the list?   Would it be at the top?   If so it would be an insult to Party members if effectively they could only choose the no-hopers that will not be elected anyway.   Considering how rotten the system is it worked well last time and should not be tinkered with.   We should aim to abolish the Closed Regional List system
***Star of the Week*** has to be Alan Duncan MP for his headmasterly performance on "Newsnight".   When did you ever hear a guest on "Newsnight" tell the presenter to "grow up" and get away with it?    In a discussion on nuclear power he had a very convincing argument which put all the other spokespersons on the back foot
Cash for Peerages
Over many years involved with Party finance I learnt that a potential big donor could always get a one to one meeting with the Party Leader.   No records, no minutes, nobody else present.
If the police are serious in their inquiries they should check all Peers that have made big donations to political Parties, when they made them and if they had a one to one meeting with one of the Party Leaders in the three months prior to making the donation.
Of course there is one route to a peerage which is virtually guaranteed: become the Treasurer of the Conservative Party.    In the last dozen years Charles Hambro, Graham Kirkham, Michael Ashcroft, Stanley Kalms and Jonathan Marland all started as Mr. or Sir but have ended up in the House of Lords.   All have made substantial donations to the Party.    The beauty of this system is that nobody has to promise anything.    It is just taken for granted and after all Treasurers know where the bodies are buried.   But then the Tories always were more efficient than the Labour Party.   Oh for the days of the Major-Generals and the Brigadiers.    It didn't seem quite so sordid then.
What should not be forgotten is that this whole issue became prominent because the Treasurer of the Labour Party is elected by the members and felt obliged to disclose that things were wrong.   COPOV has long campaigned for the Treasurer of the Conservative Party to be elected by the members.    See the archive of 1999 National Convention - the sooner the better.
European Parliament Selection
We hear that a working group has been set up to look at the selection process for candidates for the next European Elections.    I hope they will not attempt to take away the decisions from Party members.    When will the Conservative Party pledge to abolish the inequitable undemocratic closed list system for these elections?
P.S what a sensible decision by David Cameron on the EPP.   This man has just got himself out of a corner without too much blood shed.   Well done.
Extradition Treaty
The Extradition Treaty of 2003 has rightly come in for a lot of criticism.   Tony Bliar and David Blunkett once again went on their knees to the Americans.   Incidentally where were the Tories when all this was happening?   Proof of deference to the United States is demonstrated when you look at the document which has American spelling e.g. "offense" instead of "offence" so we can guess who drafted it.
Bournemouth Hotels
We hear that the hoteliers of Bournemouth are not too happy with the Tory Party.   Traditionally they book holidaymakers from Friday to Monday and businessmen from Monday to Friday.   The Party conference screws two lots up as it is running from Sunday to Wednesday.   On the other hand the hoteliers all seem to have pushed up their prices whilst the Tories are there.   I am sure they will say it is to compensate them for lost business!

The "A" List
Watch out for the abandoning of the "A" list.   Everybody is now thoroughly fed up with it.    One "A" list candidate that is fed up is Howard Flight, the former MP who was disgracefully effectively dismissed as an MP by Michael Howard.    Howard thought that by keeping his nose clean and not protesting too much he would soon be back in parliament.   He was put on to the "A" list and all seemed to be progressing satisfactorily.   Then he applied for a seat where he has connections, only to be told that at 58 he was too old.   As from 1st October age discrimination will be unlawful. (see Mayor of London below).   If the Conservative Party wishes to be representative of the nation it should drop age discrimination.   Date of Birth should be taken off candidates CVs.
Conservative Accounts
According to "The Times" the Party has a £30 million deficit.   What happened to all that talk about the finances being under control?   They never will be until there is a Party Treasurer elected by and accountable to the members.   It will happen one day.
We will shortly give you an analysis of the Accounts.   They are due to be published imminently.

*****Star of the Week***** - Big Dave Cameron for his courageous speech calling for a Bill of Rights.   This speech was visionary and well thought through.    What a shame that Ken Clarke (Chairman of the Democracy task Force - who elected him?) had to attack it.   On the other hand Ken does not believe in referendums and he accepted the undemocratic European Union Constitution.   In fact a strange choice to be looking at democracy.
This government has attempted to destroy our freedoms, holding people without charge or trial, suspending habeas corpus, restring free speech, banning demonstrations.   It is a disgrace.   Thank goodness Big Dave is going to do something about it.   He also needs praise for raising the West Lothian Question.   It is time the English decided on English Laws.    Good for Dave.   He deserves five stars.
Bromley By-election
Until the Conservative Party distances itself from Labour over the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, Upgrading Trident rather than replacing it (with spending the money saved equipping our troops on the ground with the best equipment available), Education, Cash for peerages (We have gone some way but we still need to create a democratic Party) and a host of other things what will continue to happen is that at elections the Labour and Conservative vote will drop and the Liberal Democrats will pick up a few votes.   The truth is that the people still do not like what Labour and Conservative are standing for.
European Peoples Party
We show below the letter which Liam Fox sent to all Conservative candidates prior to the European elections.   It is quite clear that all our candidates signed up to the EPP ED as far as the 2009 elections.    The simple way out of this is to allow any Conservative MEP to decide for themselves what they want to do.  
At the end of next year we shall begin the process of selecting our candidates for the European election in 2009.   At that time each candidate should state whether they wish to be a member of the EPP -ED or not, or even whether they are not bothered either way.   It will then be up to the members of the Party to decide which candidates to choose.   This is the democratic way and no one could object to this exercise in democracy.   The leader should put his trust in the members, after all they put their trust in him.
Extract from Liam Fox's letter:
wpe1.jpg (210382 bytes)

wpe2.jpg (576842 bytes)
Members of the Party
When the Party brought in the Party Constitution individual Constituency Associations were asked to ratify this.   Most did, but some did not.    What is their position?   We know of at least two Constituency Associations which have never ratified the Constitution and consequently have not ratified model rules.   When choosing candidates this could become an important issue.    Has your Constituency complied?   Let me know.Two Conversations
Amongst others I had two interesting conversations this week.   A friend called out a doctor on a Saturday in Central London because their child was ill.   A Locum came to visit the child.    The Locum was from Germany and explained that they flew to England on a Friday evening, stayed until Sunday and for this were paid £1,400.00
Relating this story to a friend, they told me that their daughter is a physiotherapist in Devon.   She had recently been called out to a sick child for which she was paid £10.   Funny old world isn't it?   The NHS is in a mess.   Labour are incapable of managing anything.   After all they haven't managed anything in their lives so why should they suddenly be able to manage something when they get into government?
Women Candidates
We all know that the "A" List is going to be quietly dropped.   No one will say so but the real problem in getting more women candidates in the Tory Party is getting more women to apply.    In a helpful spirit we make the following suggestions:   Where are the nursery breeding grounds for Conservative candidates?   May we suggest the following for a start:   The Bow Group, so have Central Office had a meeting with the Group to help it get more women members?   How many women are there in the Research department?   How many women are political advisers to Tory MPs?    How many women are there in Central Office?   All these places are recruiting grounds for Tory MPs.   They are all places where the Party can take positive action lawfully to get more women.   What action is the Party taking to encourage more women Councillors?   Of course carry on targeting and head hunting prominent women in different walks of life, but if the Party adopted these suggestions they would help to crack the problem.   Time for action.
Jonathon Ross
Whoever in Central Office advised Big Dave to appear on his show must have a screw loose.  Big Dave was made to look like an embarrassed pratt.   Ross is an overgrown immature teenager, rude, crude and vulgar.   It is a disgrace that the BBC employs him at all and he should be fired forthwith.   We know the sycophants at Central Office will say how wonderful Big Dave was and that he was reaching out to a wider audience.   Rubbish, the audience he reaches out to are not going to vote because they haven't grown up.   The public are fed up with having an actor entertainer as Prime Minister.   They want someone with gravitas so next time you get an invitation Big Dave, turn down the buffoons that persuaded you to go on this appalling programme.
We see that on the Application form to be the Conservative Candidate for Mayor of London it asks for your date of birth.    Have the powers that be not heard of the Age Discrimination Act?    We quote from their advisory literature:
Although it is not unlawful to ask for date of birth on application forms, we suggest you:
"Only ask for a date of birth on your monitoring form and ensure it is not seen by those involved in the selection process"
Will Central Office do this?   I think we should be told.
Electoral Registration
Once again this autocratic government have refused to have stricter rules on voter registration,  in spite of calls by the Electoral Commission to do so.   This government encourages fraud.    It is terrified that if there were strict controls turnout would dramatically drop.   After all when voter registration was introduced in Northern Ireland there was a decrease of 120,000 on the Register, a decrease of some 10%.

***Star of the Week*** - Conservative Central Office for coming up with sensible proposals on membership.   Am I getting old or just naturally becoming more mellow?   This week Central Office put out to the constituencies some very sensible proposals on membership.   The fee is going up(not by an outrageous amount), they are simplifying it and they are being pragmatic, in addition to which they are dropping the distinction between local and national membership.   Gone down the drain are the nonsensical proposals of last summer.   This is welcome news.    It shows that someone is listening and it is a good way forward for the Party.   Well done.   Lets have more of this.
London's Mayor Primary Election
I wish I could be more positive about the system chosen for selecting the Conservative Candidate for Mayor of London.   At one time political Parties were based, in the case of the Conservative Party on a philosophy, in the case of the Labour Party on an ideology.   No longer.    When we argued, as we have for a long time that members of the Party should have a say in the development of Party policy we were told that debate was divisive and we had to get into power, because without power we could not implement anything.    True, but now there are no policies for London.   Now power is everything, nothing else matters.   What happened to principles?   The selection Committee that will produce the short list of candidates will have non Conservatives on it.   The short list will then go to the entire London electorate, including non Conservatives, for them to choose the Conservative candidate.    There is of course huge danger of electoral fraud.   We know from past experience that in spite of large numbers of officials fraud was perpetrated in the last election.   You can bet that the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats will do their best to distort the election.   This is politics gone mad.
Power is not an end in itself, unless you are on an ego trip.   It is the currency of dictators.   Where is the accountability?   What is essential to repair this potential damage to the Party is to announce that the final candidate, when chosen will be subject to endorsement at a meeting of all London members.   They will then have the opportunity to accept or reject the candidate.   This will give them ownership of the process.    This is what happened in the Warrington Primary, so there is a good precedent, as Warrington is often quoted as a successful method of choosing a candidate.
If we do not do this then increasingly people will say "Why be a member of the Conservative Party?   We no longer have a say in the Organisation.   That is effectively controlled by the unelected Party Chairman.   We have no say on policy.   There are no debates at the Party conference.   We have no say on choosing our candidates, the "A" list is being imposed on us.
Of course, there are those in Central Office that have been planning this for years.   They do not want members.    Members raise awkward questions.   They try to hold those that govern us to account.   In other words they are a pain.   Watch membership levels plummet.   Soon there will not be any, the oligarchs that run the Party will have won.   Democracy will have been destroyed.   Is this to be Custer's last stand?   I hope not, for if it is the next question to be asked will be "Why have a Conservative Party"?
England's Flag
This week whist stuck in a traffic jam on the M25 I noticed an England flag in the central reservation.   I felt sorry for the poor person who would arrive home to find their treasured possession no longer on their car.   I then noticed another flag and as one does when in a traffic jam I started to count them.   In the space of one mile I counted no less than twenty English flags.   Is this a record or is this the picture over all our motorway network?   If it is then there must be more flags on our motorways than on our buildings or even in the stadiums in Germany when we are playing football.    Interesting thought!   Is this a one off?  Let me know.

The Party Chairman
This week has not been a very good one for the Party Chairman.   Writing in "The Independent" Bruce Anderson called for him to be replaced.   Now Bruce is a big teddy bear always sociable, often seen in the bar late at night at Party Conferences, but every now and again he flips his lid.   He has done so this time.   What is Big Frank accused of? According to Bruce he is trying to use the "A" List to humiliate the traditional Tory Party.    What utter unadulterated rubbish.   Because he has not been a Tory activist for a long time, if ever he was, Bruce has no idea how the Tory Party works at grass roots level.
In his article Bruce states "To anyone who questions the need for an "A" List Mr. Cameron has a blunt answer: tell me how else to get a lot more Tory women into the Commons.   That point is unanswerable."   No Bruce  there is a very simple answer - attract more women to stand as candidates.   That is where the problem lies, not in the selection process.   What is worrying is that those proponents of the "A" List have lost all sense of logic.   If 50 women are chosen by a particular criteria out of 110 candidates and 50 men are chosen by the same criteria out of 330 candidates logic tells you that the men are going to be better than the women because it has been more difficult for them to be selected.   When they then go in front of a Constituency selection committee do not be surprised that the men will be chosen particularly if the Constituency is persuaded to use the same criteria.    The system is barmy.
So Bruce, back off Big Frank is doing a great job.   He had the "A" List imposed on him and has tried to make a good job out of a bad hand.   To his credit he has said "The "A" List approach is not perfect and we have always said that at the end of the Summer we would take stock and see how it needs to be amended to make it work better."     Candidates are being told to wait until the summer is over when the whole crazy scheme will be dropped.   We also hear that the Conservative Party membership of the EPP is going to be put on ice until the 2009 European Elections.    With these two issues kicked into the long grass the Party is moving forward in leaps and bounds.   Big Dave is the front man but behind him is Big Frank.   They make a great team.   For the first time in 14 years the Tories are on the move.
One final point, congratulations to the Northern Ireland Conservatives.   This week a member of the Ulster Unionists defected to them.   Their membership has increased by 100 since Big Dave became Leader and they now have 600 members in Northern Ireland.   The sun is shining on the Tory Party.   Long may it continue.   Bruce time to take the tablets.

Common Sense  1    "A" List  0
What a shambles.   On the first occasion the "A" list comes under scrutiny it goes down the Bromley pan.    Of course the procedures in a by-election are different from normal selection.   Nevertheless the members decided that they wanted Bob Neil who was not on the "A" list rather than two people that were on the list.    What is good enough for the members in Bromley should be good enough for the rest of the country.
Surprise, surprise, now that 35 of the target seats are selecting what do we find.   Many on the "A" list are not interested as now they have been told that they are the elite they are only interested in safe seats, and many of the seats are saying that they do not want to select now because they want a wider range of candidates than the "A" list.   Is there anybody in Central Office that understands human nature?   It is all one big mess.   So what to do?
It is reported that Bernard Jenkins is getting fed up with taking the flak over the "A" list from the candidates and the constituencies.   No doubt he also gets flak morning noon and night from his wife who promoted this ridiculous idea because everybody now knows that it is a massive failure.   Answer - Big Daveshould give Bernard another job.    It was not his fault it failed.   Announce that there will be a Chairman of Candidates elected at the National Convention in October and accountable to the Convention.   This is called democracy.  There will be a motion tabled to this effect.   Quietly stop talking about the "A" list.    We do not want to rub salt in the wounds.   Start expanding the list of candidates.
We all agree that the Party in Parliament is not representative of the people and to get a better balance we have to have more women and more ethnic minorities.   The problem is not the selection process.    The problem is that not enough women and ethnic minority candidates are applying to go on the list.  Listen to Ann Widdecombe:
"When I won the Burnley nomination only 2 out of 50 applicants were women, at Devonport only about 8 out of 120 and at Maidstone 12 out of 200."
The Party needs to launch a big campaign to attract women onto the candidates list.   It needs to scrap the pyramid method of election in the Women's Organisation and introduce one woman,one vote for their officers so that they are accountable to the grass roots.   They need to develop a programme with organisations like the BOW Group  to attract more women to their meetings.   Many candidates start their political careers in the BOW Group.    There are many ways to tackle this problem, but they nearly all mean that some members of the oligarchy give up power.   So be it.   Finally we need the Party to become more democratic to attract all members no matter what sex they are.   We will shortly have the means to do this when each member is give an email pin number.   What a boost this could give to the Party.    Surveys of members, consultation on policy when the results of the policy reviews are announced, national elections in which all members can participate.    What an exciting future for politics in the United Kingdom, and the Conservative Party could lead the way.   We live in hope.
Abolition of the "A" List Campaign - Watch this site for developments.

****Star of the Week*** - Big Dave for his great speech saying that "money isn't everything".   This was a courageous speech which we have been waiting years for a politician to say.   The appeal of Big Dave is that it is so refreshing to hear a politician saying different things.   We may not agree on everything but he is changing the face of British politics.     He only gets four stars this week because there are two things he still needs to address which we refer to below.   Big Frank deserves some kudos too.
Abolish the "A" list Campaign - latest.
We hear that there was an attempt to put the Chairman of Candidates - Shireen Ritchie on the Party Board.   It was rejected when it was pointed out that she had stood for election and been defeated.   Of course it may have been to do with the fact that the Board were not informed as to who was on the "A" list before it was published.   As one Board member said to me this week the whole Candidates department should be scrapped and we should start again with a clean sheet of paper.   How about it Big Dave?   Next week we will inform you of the first meeting of the Abolish the "A" list campaign.   Watch this space.
Conservative MEPs
Big Dave has not yet met with the Conservative members of the European Parliament.    This is disgraceful, particularly as we hear that a decision is imminent on the question of whether we should be members or associates of the European Peoples Party.    Unless Big Dave intends to pull out of the European Union it is essential that he meets and starts to build up a relationship with the MEPs.   If we pull out it does not matter, but if we stay in then we should be developing a strong Conservative policy, which ought to include abandoning the undemocratic closed list system of electing MEPs.
Solve these two problems Big Dave and the world is your oyster.   How about it?

Abolish the "A" list Campaign
    At a well attended meeting of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy on
Saturday it was agreed to campaign for the abolition of the "A" list and the
return of constituency autonomy in the selection of parliamentary
candidates.
    The Chairman, John Strafford condemned the social engineering in drawing up
the "A" list and called for the process to be opened up so that any
Conservative member could be on the list.   Central Office's role would be
to filter out the mad, bad, and sad.   The real problem that should be
addressed was how to attract more female and ethnic minority candidates.
This would only happen if we broke down the barriers to entry to the list
and made the Party more democratic.
    The meeting also called for the Chairman of the Candidates committee to be
elected by the National Convention and thus accountable to it.
    A meeting will be held in London towards the end of June to which all
candidates and party members will be invited to plan the campaign leading up
to an open meeting at the Party Conference.
       If any candidate or Party member wishes to be informed of the date, time and venue of the meeting contact John Strafford at COPOV
The "A" List Carrot
Over 300 candidates will have received a letter telling them that they are not good enough to be on the "A" list.    The letter signed by Bernard Jenkins and Shireen Ritchie tells them that in effect their skills, experience and potential were not good enough.   This, to many candidates that flogged their guts out fighting the last General election.    Of course many of these candidates wish to become Conservative MPs so to ensure that they keep their mouths shut they are told
    "As constituencies make their selections, the "A" list will be topped up, both from those like you, already on the List and from new additions to the List of Approved Candidates.    The number of seats to be selected in the second tranche will be larger than in the first and we will want to add enough names to give seats a good selection of candidates.   We expect the assessment panel to meet again in July.    You will certainly be eligible for reconsideration at that time and we will let you know if your status has changed."
How cynical can you get.   Be a good boy or girl and we the politburo will give you another chance.   If they want to "add enough names to give seats a good selection of candidates" does that mean that they accept that the current number doesn't give a good selection and if so why don't they increase it now?
We hear that not only are the Northern Seats furious at the lack of Northern candidates the marginals in the South West are spitting blood at the lack of local candidates.

The "A" List
We welcome all those candidates that are on the "A" list.   What is wrong is if Constituency Associations are only allowed to choose their candidate from this list.   We believe that a Conservative member, unless mad, bad or sad, should be entitled to put themselves forward as a Candidate, and we will campaign for this to be the case.
Why is the List system wrong?    First of all it raises questions as to why some people in particular are thought worthy of being a top candidate whereas others are not.   Is it a case of who you know or who you suck up to?   Secondly why are there so few candidates from the North of England on the list?   How many on the list are over 50 years of age?   All these are legitimate questions for which at the moment there are no answers.   Why isn't the total list being made public with brief CVs of each candidate so a proper assessment can be made as to how they are representative of the people.   How many window cleaners are on the list?    How many public servants, if any?   The truth of the matter is that this list is the view of an elite minority of people in Central Office of what they think a candidate should be.   It is authoritarian in approach.   The Soviet Politburo writ large.   It is what happens when a political Party is undemocratic.
Why isn't the Chairman of Candidates elected by the membership and thus accountable to the membership for what they are doing?
Look at the existing Conservative Party in the House of Commons.    Over 40% have Oxbridge degrees.   59% went to private school.   An old Etonion is 384 times more likely to be a Conservative MP than one that went to a state school.   20% have practised as a barrister or a solicitor.   19% have worked in banking.   If you want to make the Party more representative of the people then you would change the existing Parliamentary Party.   Each sitting MP would have to undergo a re-selection process and to ensure that it was not fudged it would be conducted as a primary election in his or her constituency with any Conservative candidate allowed to stand.    Will this happen?   No.   The sitting MPs would have David Cameron's guts for garters if he went down this route.   On the other hand perhaps he could set an example.   After all he is a white, middle aged old Etonion with an Oxbridge degree.   Just the type the Party wants to avoid so we are told.   What is good for the goose is good for the gander!    Instead of following the logic of his argument David Cameron has gone for the soft option of attacking the Candidates.   He knows they will not fight back because they still want to get on the list.   Already they are having the carrot of a further selection being carried out in July.   Doesn't it make you sick?
It will not work.   Only  one in four male candidates are on the list whereas more than one in two female candidates are on it.   This will probably mean that as it was more difficult for a man to get on the list than for a female the quality of the male candidates will be higher.    Watch out for the Constituency Associations to realise that by choosing men.
We will campaign against this undemocratic process.   Watch this web site for further news.
Director of Campaigning
We hear that the new Director of Campaigning dictates her email replies.   Can she not use a computer?   Do you know of anybody else that does this?
Ulster Unionists
We hear that Jonathan Caine has been advising the Ulster Unionists on their constitution.   If so, is it right that an employee of the Conservative Party should be advising another political Party.    What is going on?   I think we should be told.

*****Stars of the Week***** - David Cameron and The Conservative Party.   This is the first time in the history of this web site that we have awarded five stars.   There is no shadow of doubt that this week has been the best week for the Conservative Party since we won the 1992 General Election.    All credit has to be given to David Cameron for this excellent move forward.    The grass roots of the Party have been strengthened by the increase in Councillors and the Party is in much better shape than it has been for a long time.    In my own constituency of Beaconsfield at the AGM this week they produced spectacular results, so we are also beginning to see a healthy revival of the Party at Constituency level.
On top of all this David Cameron made a brilliant speech on democracy at the Power Inquiry conference on Saturday.   His speech, which was not to a Conservative audience, went down extremely well.   I thought it was the best speech that I have ever heard him make.
Labour is in melt down.   What a week!
Director of Campaigning
We hear that Angel Browning is taking over Gavin Barwell's job at Central Office.   I wonder if she is being paid for it on top of her MPs salary?   Rumours are flying around about the state of the Party finances and what is about to happen to Central Office.   Time to come clean and let us know.
Candidates
We are hearing more and more about the disgraceful way in which candidates are being treated.   we show below the experience of one candidate.   It is appalling.   Because candidates hope at some time to get on the list they are reluctant to go public but the disillusion is extensive.   If there is sufficient demand we will hold a meeting in London to which all candidates will be invited.   This will probably be in June.    If any one is interested let me know onjohnstrafford@btinternet.com     Any communication will be kept confidential.   It is clearly time the candidates department was closed down and given a fresh start.   It is a mess and doing immense damage to an important group of people.
    At the General Election last May, I secured a 5.7% swing to the Conservatives from Labour - substantially more than the national average.  My campaign, however, was difficult in the extreme with little help from surrounding constituencies, MPs and councillors for example - who chose to work in their own areas.  Whilst not publicly condemning anyone, I was frank when asked for my opinions by Central Office.
    A few weeks later I was sent the customary re-application form which I duly submitted.  I was then sent a 'it has not been possible to come to a conclusion in your case' later, and invited to an interview.  This was on the back of reports which were to be taken only from the Association Chairman and the Area Campaign Director.  Given that I know the contents of the Chairman's report, one can only assume that the ACD's report was less than favourable - unless others had input, unofficially.
    My interview was due to take place with an MP, a 'senior' member of the voluntary party and another ACD.  When I attended, the ACD had left to go somewhere.  My interview was conducted by an MP and the Chairman of an area - and consisted of just 3 questions - how was the campaign?, what would you do differently?  and what will you do if we turn you down?  The whole thing had an air of disinterest around it, and was immediately before lunch!
    Alas, a few weeks later I got the 'no thank you' letter along with an instruction that I could not reapply till after the next General Election and then only with permission from the Chairman of Candidates.  No reasons given, no information etc etc.  I hardly fit the bill of being middle class (I grew up on a council estate and still support my mother to this day), nor privately educated etc.  Like many others, I suspect, I cannot help but feel that I have been shunted aside to make way for more 'diverse' candidates - women, ethnic minorities, and the Central Office favoured few!

April 30th
Candidates
It was reported in "The TeleGraph" this week that David Cameron had said that there would be more women on the Priority List than men and that 10% of the list would be ethnic minorities.   This is appalling.   Two wrongs do not make a right.   Will the hierarchy never learn?   For the 440 candidates that are waiting to hear whether they are "A" list or "B" List or nothing their wait will soon be over.    We hear that they will be informed immediately after the local elections.    What a cynical way to treat candidates.   Work hard in the local elections then get kicked in the guts for your efforts.   Disgraceful!
Strategy
We agree with the strategy of the Party.    First of all we have to rebrand it.   David Cameron is doing an excellent job in this.   Next we have to spend time looking at and developing policies.   This is right, but here a major mistake is being made.    The Voluntary Party is excluded from this process.   So when the policies are announced the first thing will be to win over a resentful voluntary Party.    Whereas if they had been involved in the process they would accept the results of the process and accept ownership of the process..   You would then have the whole Party selling the policies to the electorate.   Unless there are changes watch out for fireworks when we start announcing policies.
The area that the Party is falling down on at the moment is in opposing vigorously the Labour Government.   They are reeling  and we need some sharp attacks to put the knife in.   They are on their knees.  We should not let them get back up.   Now is the time to go for them with all guns firing.   Timer to bring on the heavy hitters, the bovver boys of the Party,   For the next year we should concentrate on attacking our opponents so that by the time we begin to announce our policies Labour and Liberal Democrats have no credibility.
Statistics
Will John Prescott become the first Minister to be laughed out of office?
In 1815 the Home Office employed 15 civil servants and the Foreign Office 40.   I know we were running an Empire then but when I see that today the Home Office employs 70,000 then I just wonder where we have gone wrong.
Lloyd George created 150 Peers.    Tony Blair has created 293.   Who was the crook?
April 23rd
***Star of the Week *** - It has to be David Cameron.   His trip to the arctic was a resounding success.    Anybody that watched "Newsnight" will know that he is in the process of changing the public perception of the Conservative Party.   This is good news.   His strategy is 100% correct.   That does not mean that the Conservative Party is above criticism.   Indeed, now is the time we should be having healthy debate.   We have 18 months to flesh out our policies, but it is nice to know that at last we are on the right track.
Slogans
"Vote Blue go Green"    Doesn't green make you feel sick?   Mustn't criticise.    After all we are paying £300,000 a year for these slogans.
Selection of Candidates
The Party has published guidelines on the selection procedure for parliamentary candidates.   Among them are the following:
associations to either consult with the community during selection or hold a primary.
an end to candidates making a big speech at their selection meeting.
We are quite happy with Associations holding primaries as long as the safeguards used in the Warrington selection are in place.
As for consulting with the community what a load of rubbish.   Who is the community?   We are told they are to be non-party member representatives from the local community.   Does this mean non Conservative Party member or non any political Party member?   Who are they?    Who decides who they are?   How many should there be?    This whole section has not been thought out and should be dispatched to the rubbish bin.   It gives an ideal method of manipulating the selection process.
Why shouldn't candidates make a speech if the Association wants them to?   The control freak mentality of Central Office is taking over.   Whatever happened to Constituency autonomy?   Who is it that is so arrogant they they and they alone know the best way to choose a parliamentary candidate?   Soon Associations will be told who their candidate is and the Party will all but disappear at local level other than Councillors.   It is a disgrace.
The "A" list
We now know that there are about 440 candidates  on the candidates list.   Of these about 25% are women, i.e about 110.   The "A" list will consist of 70 women and 70 men, so if you are female your chances of getting on the "A" list are better than 2 to 1.    If you are a man it will be over 4 to 1.   This is totally unfair.    Candidates should be chosen on merit regardless of sex, if there is to be a list at all.
We totally oppose the concept of an "A" list.   We believe in the wisdom of the crowd.   The bigger the number taking part the more likely to get the best candidate.    Nevertheless let us suppose that the "A" list is the right way to go.   We all want to see more women MPs.   If it is successful then we will end up with 70 more women MPs on top of the 19 at present, in other words a total of 89 women MPs out of a total of 340 Conservative MPs, about 26%   At the moment they comprise about 10%.
The argument put forward for adopting this undemocratic and draconian measure is that the existing Parliamentary Party is unrepresentative of the people.   It consists of mainly white middle class men privately educated, large numbers of which went to Oxbridge and worked in the City or are barristers.   If we want to bring about real change,then it is no good tinkering with candidates it is the existing Party which has to change.   Logic tells us that in that case what should happen is that at the next General Election every sitting MP should come up for re-selection and to make it fair there should be a primary election held.   What is good for the goose is good for the gander.   Rather than imposing their will on the voluntary Party let us see whether the Parliamentary Party has the guts to apply its own demands on itself.   I fancy we will have to wait a long time.
April 16th
Pin No.
At the National Convention last week Don Porter (the new Chairman of the Convention) made one of the most significant announcements in the history of the Tory Party.   He said that the Party were looking into giving an email pin number to each Party member.   The ramifications of this could be enormous.    It would mean that ordinary members could vote for National officers direct rather than through the discredited pyramid voting system we use at present.    So, for example the members could elect their representatives on the Party Board.   They could even elect the Party Chairman and the Party Treasurer.
It addition to all this it could  mean Party members being directly consulted on policy matters.   This is one of the most far seeing approaches from a Party which is at last beginning to realise that we are in the 21st century.   The quicker we get on with it the better.
Aims and Values
At the Spring Convention the Chairman of COPOV intervened in the Aims and Values debate.   He accused the Party of Blairite presentation.   He went on:
"The aim of the Conservative Party should be to love mother.   Our values should be judged by the value of a home baked apple pie cooked by Jamie Oliver.   We know from focus groups that such aims and values would  have the support from every elector.   The people would love us.   They would see we had changed.
Then we would have a reality check.    We would wake up.
The exercise is unutterable junk.    At a time when there are no debates at Party Conference, when we have no vote on policy, when we have no vote on party organisation, when our choice of parliamentary candidates is being restricted, do not insult the intelligence of the ordinary Party member by giving them a vote on this rubbish.
Dare I say it, at the moment the Emperor has no clothes.  It is time we started to dress him with some policies."
Machiavelli
As a foreigner I am not allowed to donate money to a British political Party.   This is a real nuisance.   I would like an honour.   Some of my companies do business with the Government and I am told that donations  to the Parties give influence in these matters.    How do I overcome this.   I have thought out one or two ideas.    Just suppose that the Party has property, let us say worth £10 million.    I could buy it from them for say £15 million.   Property is hard to value.   On the other hand I could sell them a property worth £30 million for say £15 million.   Either way I have managed to give them a donation of £5 million in one case or £15 million in the other.   I could of course employ some staff of the Party directly by my companies.   Although they were working for me and paid by me through one of my many companies some of them foreign, who would know.   Now Mr. Electoral Commissioner what is wrong with this.   I think it is so good I must have a word with Lord .... After all he should know about these things.   He might even arrange for me to get a peerage.   Lord Machiavelli, now that would be something!
North West Conservatives
It was very nice to get a thank you from the North West Conservative office to all those that went canvassing during the Spring Forum.Well done and good luck in the elections.
Control of the Party
Gavin Barwell (Director of Campaigning at Central Office) is off to work for Lord Ashcroft.   He joins another former Director of Campaigning Stephen Gilbert.   At this rate how soon will it be before all Central Office employees are employed by Deputy Chairman of the Party, Lord Ashcroft?   His grip on the Party tightens.   In charge of fighting marginal constituencies, a big lender to the Party, (£3.5 million at the last count), former Treasurer and so on.   Yet never elected by Party members?    How can one man become so powerful?   Money!   Some of his ideas are good, some not so good, but isn't it time he issued a manifesto so that we can see where he is leading us?   Does he have a political agenda?    We should know.
Peers
LLoyd George created 150 Peers.    Tony Bliar has created 293 Peers.   Who is the crook?
April 9th
Spring Forum
This was a very interesting Spring Forum.    I did not think it would be.   There were no motions for debate and virtually no opportunities for discussion or participation by the members.   It was more like a Summer School, and a chance to learn about the Inner Cities than a political conference.   There is room for us to have both, either back to back or on separate occasions. 
Some interesting points come out of it all:
Communication was appalling.    People turning up for the Spring Forum were not told about the dinner on the Thursday evening.   Hardly anybody knew other than Councillors about the meeting with Ken Clarke and his democracy task force.   In any case it was held in a pub with a jazz band practising whilst the meeting was going on.   Somebody needs to get their act together.
The National Convention is an appalling waste of time.   The platform talks to the floor.   It should be scrapped and an Annual General Meeting of the whole Party held to which every member is invited.   Questions should be allowed to the candidates for election as was proposed and passed by the Convention years ago.
Conservative Way Forward held a very interesting meeting with Nirj Deva MEP who made an excellent speech about Aid in the developing countries.
Nearly everybody that wanted to went canvassing or delivering leaflets for the local government elections on the Friday evening.   The Chairman of COPOV was not looking forward to this and he got soaked in the process.   In fact it was a very successful exercise and helped create a feeling of togetherness.   Four bus loads went to Salford and Bury and parts of Manchester.   The effect was to deliver 15.000 leaflets and to get 800 pledges.   Well done to all.   We were rewarded with a free meal at the Midland Hotel.   This added to the pleasure. (I do not know whether this forms part of election expenses and if it was subsidised runs foul of election law.    Presumably somebody in Central Office checked it out?)   Hopefully the meal was subsidised because the Midland Hotel must rank as the most expensive Conference Hotel ever and I would hate to think that Party funds were used in such an extravagant way.   Nevertheless it rounded off a good day.
Candidates
There were 630 candidates on the old candidates list of which 440 have re-applied for the new list.   21 candidates have been fast tracked into marginal seats.
The Isle of Sheppey has passed a resolution at its Annual General Meeting demanding that its candidate at the General Election be reinstated on the list.   The candidate having been told that he had been thrown off in spite of losing the seat by only 79 votes.   We await to see what happens.
One of the problems that is beginning to loom over this ridiculous "A" Priority list is that the expectations of ethnic minority candidates are being raised to unsustainable levels.   Out of 100 on the list the most that ethnic minorities might expect to have is 10.   Some are going to be bitterly disappointed.
MEPs
We hear that David Cameron has not yet held a meeting with Conservative MEPs,   This is disgraceful.   A meeting should be held immediately.   Whether we are in the EPP or not does not matter.    These MEPs are part of the Conservative Party.   Time to act David and now.   Action this day!.
April 2nd
Party Funding
Once again the two main Parties are deep in the mire over Party funding.   So deep in the mud are they that all you can see are the bubbles popping through the surface.   The male equivalent of cow dung is pouring all over David Cameron's head.   It could have been so different.    He could have taken the high ground and fired those that took the secret loans.   He could have disclosed everything from the start but he has had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century and he has still a long way to go.
One day the Conservative Party will have an elected Treasurer and an elected Party Chairman.   It will be democratic.    It will have an Annual General Meeting to which all members are invited and at which the officers of the Party can be questioned.   If David Cameron did all this now it could be his Clause IV moment.   It would demonstrate that the Conservative Party had changed.   If he does not do it the Conservative Party and their copiers the Labour party will go down the tubes.   There are 18 million people who did not vote at the last General Election who said we cannot stand any of you.   You are all mired with the same brush.   Of those that did vote 40% were aged over 60 and these are the generation forgotten by all politicians.    One day someone will start speaking for them.
We have learnt something in the last week.    Of the 13 loans disclosed as outstanding at 31st March, 6 were made by former or current Party Treasurers.   So there we have it, loan the Party £100,000 and you will be made a Party Treasurer.   Nice one David.   We also know that at least two lenders demanded anonymity.   I will tell you right now David their names will come out in the end, so you may as well tell them now.
Is this the full list?   After all, this system of "Commercial" loans started in 2001.   How many lenders have there been and how many were repaid in the period since then?   If you were a "Commercial" lender you would want to know what existing loans there were and on what terms they had to be repaid.   Didn't any of the secret lenders ask these questions.   What "Commercial" lender would lend money to an organisation that had negative assets of £5 million at 31st December 2004 without security?   So what security was given?   If these were loans on "Commercial" terms why didn't the Party go and borrow from the bank?
On top of all this we have the odd situation of 32 Smith Square   As At 31st December 2004 32 Smith Square is consolidated into the Conservative Party Accounts as a fixed asset worth £10 million.   It was owned by C&UCO Properties Ltd.   The Party has now borrowed £16 million from the bank in order to purchase the freehold which together with the adjoining property are now worth over £30 million.   Clever stuff this.   You sell an asset worth £10 million then borrow £16 million to buy it back and when you have bought it back it is now worth £30 million.   Where did the £10 million cash you sold it for go?   See also below 32 Smith Square
One final point.   Check out the amount of donations given before a peerage with those given after a peerage.    With one or two exceptions the amounts before exceed those after.    I wonder why.

Candidates
Do you want to be a Conservative Candidate?    If you get as far as being asked for an interview you will be allotted forty-five minutes for the interview with one MP plus one other.   A decision will then be taken as to whether you will be on the "A" list but you will not be told this until the end of May.   Your future career rests in the hands of these super individuals who are so clever that they know exactly what the elector wants.    What unbelievable arrogance.   Why do the members of the Party put up with this junk?   The answer is that they do not.   They leave.    That is the history of the Party for the last fifty years.   Soon there will be no members left.   Do the MPs care?   No!    They ask for State Funding so we the taxpayer coughs up the money with no accountability as to how it is spent.
March 26th
Party Political Loans
The sad and sorry saga of the Party loans continues.   The Conservative Party could have taken the high ground by immediately announcing who had given loans to the Party but failed to do so.    The end result is that the Party is as deep in the mire as the Labour party.    We all know that eventually the names of the Tory Party "donors" will come out so why not get them out now instead of in dribs and drabs.   The Conservative Party Treasurer is appointed so there is less pressure to disclose the loans.    The one redeeming feature of Labour's Loans is that the story came out because they have an elected treasurer who has to report back to their Party Conference.
It is time that the Conservative Party Treasurer was elected by the members of the Party and had to report on the Accounts to an Annual General meeting of the Party at which he could be questioned.   David Cameron is looking as though he is going to fail his first test in Party democracy.    What a shame.   The only person to come out of this with any credit is the Shadow Attorney General, Dominic Grieve who called for transparency.   No wonder he won the award for Politician of the Year.   He has more political nous and courage than the rest of them put together.   Well done Dominic.    Keep it up.   In the end you will be victorious.
One other good thing is that at last the Party is beginning to face reality and has come out with some proposals for the future financing of political parties.   They propose a cap on donations of £50,000.    This is too high and should be reduced to £10,000.   We agree with capping General Election expenditure to £15 million.   We agree all their proposals for cutting expenditure.   Some of these are quite bold and the Party is to be commended on these initiatives.   Reforming the honours system, having a substantially elected House of Lords are all very good.
Where we disagree is on giving tax relief on donations.   Both Main Parties are keen on donations.   It means that there is no accountability.   Tax relief can only be justified if it is given on membership subscriptions and then only if the political parties meet certain democratic criteria.   The Electoral Commission has been particularly lax in not demanding these fundamental criteria for any political party to receive state funds .    The effect of not doing so is that large amounts of taxpayers money ( over £20 million to the Tories since 1997) is being given to small oligarchies.    This is a disgrace and should be remedied forthwith.
The Tory Party is at last beginning to move towards getting its house in order.   What a pity it is taking so long.    We are told that Andrew Tyrie MP (who does a good job for democracy) has been working on this subject for  some time.   In which case why hasn't the voluntary party been consulted?   They do have an interest in the result.
32 Smith Square
It was announced this week that The Conservative party has purchased the freehold of 32 Smith Square.   This is another saga and it links in to the secret loans.
32 Smith Square was purchased in 1954 by Lord Woolton (almost his last act as Party Chairman) for just under £1 million from the Conservative controlled Westminster Council,   Within eighteen months its value had increased to £1,5 million.   An astronomic rise for the time, but journalists were not so inquisitive then.   The property was bought in the name of the Bourne Association Ltd ( later to change its name to C&UCO Properties Ltd).    At the time there were a number of Companies which the Conservative Party used which were all named after different rivers.   The Directors of the Company were the great and good in the Tory Party (the men in grey suits).   Bourne Association gave a long lease to the Conservative Party at a peppercorn rent of £1.00 per annum
Over the years as property values increased so did the value of 32 Smith Square.   By the early nineties the value had increased to £6 million.   The Party had large overdrafts which were secured against the property.  At 31st March 2000 the Party had an overdraft of £3.234 million together with interest free loans (excluding loans from constituencies) of £3.150 million.
In 2000 the Electoral Commission was set up and donations to political Parties of over £5,000 had to be disclosed but not loans at a commercial rate of interest.   In the year to 31st March 2001 the overdraft disappeared as did the interest free loans and were replaced by interest bearing loans of £5.670 million.   By 31st December 2002 32 Smith Square had increased in value to £10 million and did not have to be secured because there was no overdraft.    By 31st December 2004 the interest bearing loans had increased to £9.249 million but there was still no overdraft and the Conservative Party moved into 25 Victoria Street in July 2004 leaving 32 Smith Square empty.   It was thought apparently that Smith Square could be sold and the proceeds used in the General Election, but the building was not owned by the Party but by C& UCO Properties Ltd.
Then comes the mystery bit which we are told involved a South African link.   What it was exactly we do not know, but now we have the announcement that the Conservative Party has bought the freehold.   It is reported that it was bought for £15 million, although according to one report it is worth £30 million.   It raises the following questions.
Did C&UCO Properties sell the freehold to the South Africans or was it the peppercorn lease which was sold or neither?    If there was a sale how much was it sold for?
Is it the Conservative Party which has bought the freehold and who did it buy it from?   Was it bought from C&UCO Properties or somebody else or has C&UCO Properties bought back the property?
The weird thing about all this is that it has been announced that the Conservative Party is not going back into 32 Smith Square so why is it doing all this wheeling and dealing.   It appears to be acting like some speculative cowboy developer.   Do we really want our Party to be involved in speculative development and what happens if it all goes wrong?
One more reason why we should have an elected Party Treasurer accountable to the members so that we could be told the full story.  This is all beginning to feel like 1954.
March 19th
European Candidates
We hear that it is being proposed that the lists for European Candidates are to be elected on a man, woman, man, woman basis.    In this age of political correctness we think this is disgraceful.    What about gays, lesbians, old, young, singles, marrieds, ethnic minorities, disabled etc.   In fact there are so many categories that should be represented there are not enough places on the lists.   So bad is it, that we might have to go back to choosing candidates on merit.   If any candidate feels hard done by write to David Cameron at Conservative Central Office.   Tell him that there is a growing perception that all the Conservative party is interested in are white, married, middle aged Old Etonians.   What is he going to do about it?
Bias in the BBC
Did you notice that on Saturday 100,000 people demonstrated in Trafalgar Square calling for our excellent troops to be brought home from Iraq.   You would not have done if you watched the BBC.   It got hardly a mention, in contrast to Sky News and ITV news.   Is it just possible that the BBC is still sucking up to the government?
Party Funding
The row over Party funding was waiting to happen.   Both main political parties are undemocratic.   Both have treated their members with contempt for years.   Is it any wonder that membership has suffered long term decline?   The one redeeming factor as far as the Labour Party is concerned is that at least their Party Treasurer is an elected position and has to report back to their conference.
The Conservative Party still feels that it is alright for a small oligarchy to control the Party.   The Party Treasurer and the Party Chairman should be elected by the members of the Party and accountable to them at an Annual General Meeting of the Party to which all members are invited.   It is at this AGM that the Report and Accounts of the Party should be presented and members have the right to ask questions about the Report and Accounts.
It is unacceptable that each year £4, 000,000 of taxpayer's money is given to a small oligarchy  that controls the Party.   Since 1997 the Conservative Party has received over £20 million in taxpayer funding.   Why doesn't the Electoral Commission demand minimum standards of democracy in any political Party in receipt of taxpayer funding?   It is a disgrace.
Coming on to the questions of Loans these are in fact more dangerous than outright gifts for the Party has an ongoing commitment and the loans can be withdrawn.   In his book Lord Ashcroft said that he was owed £2.5 million by the Party which was due for repayment on January 31st 2006 and he was going to insist on it being repaid.   Then David Cameron was elected Leader and Lord Ashcroft became a Deputy Chairman of the Party.   Rather than repaying the Loan he went on to add a further £1.4 million to it.   Now Lord Ashcroft has done many fine things for the Tory Party, not only in the money field, but it is highly dangerous for a political Party to be so reliant on one source for such a large amount.    Suppose Lord Ashcroft became disillusioned with David Cameron and wanted his money back.   Could the Party repay it?
We are told that the Parties are going to show who has got loans outstanding at the moment, but this will not give the full picture.    It is feasible to make a loan to the Party on January 1st, have it repaid on December 30th and it doesn't show anywhere.   We are told that the loans are at commercial rates, but why then didn't the Parties borrow them from their banks?    Is it possible that their Banks would not lend them anything and if this is the case what is a commercial rate?
Up until 2001 the Conservative Party always had an overdraft.   In that year it disappeared and was replaced by loans.    Now, one wonders what the terms of the loans were and what has happened since then.
Tomorrow David Cameron is to announce that the number of MPs should be cut to enable State funding of political Parties.    We welcome that.   We also welcome a limit on donations, but would suggest that a sensible limit be £10,000 per donation.
March 12th
Candidates
The rumbles about the "A" list of parliamentary candidates continues.   We hear that a group of "failed" candidates has got together and are investigating whether they can find out the reasons they have been so summarily dismissed by using the "Freedom of Information Act.    Good luck to them.
It is all very ironic.  David Cameron puts the following as the number one value of the Conservative Party:
"The more we trust people, the stronger they and society become."
He could equally have said:
"The more we trust the membership the stronger they and the Party become."
Why then does he insist on a small oligarchy   deciding who should be on the "A" list of parliamentary candidates?    Trust the members to decide.
David Cameron has been looking for a Clause IV moment to establish his Leadership.   There is one that is looking him in the face.   Make the Conservative Party a democratic Party fit for the 21st Century.    It is quite simple really:
Make the Party Chairman and the Party Treasurer electable by the members and accountable to the members at an Annual General Meeting of the Conservative Party where they would have to present an Annual Report.
Bring back the Regions with meetings of members held every six months and make the officers of the Regions electable by the membership.
Scrap the "A" list of candidates and allow any Conservative party member to be a candidate with Central Office having a final vetting process to eliminate the mad, bad, and sad.
Do these things David and you will have your Clause IV moment, because a great squeal will go up from the vested interests in the Party, but you will have right on your side and will win.   Have you the guts to do it?   That is the question.
Membership
It has been announced that then Party Board has been considering how to take forward the proposals to amend the Party's membership rules.   It proposes a further consultation paper in May following the local elections and to implement any changes from 1st January 2007.   Hopefully they will have dropped some of the dafter proposals.   Otherwise look forward to a fight from the Constituency Associations.
March 5th
More on Candidates
The rumbles about the Candidates list continue.   There are now at least two Constituency Associations which are preparing Special Resolutions of their members demanding the reinstatement of their candidate onto the List.   Feeling is running high, with threats of resignation and the possibility of Independent Candidates.   In addition at least one Constituency has declared that it does not want to be a "Target Seat", because one of the requirements is that they have to choose a candidate from the "A" list.   They want to have the ability to interview local candidates.     It seems that the Party is moving to allow this facility overturning a previous decision not to allow local candidates.
The Old
At the last election 40% of the votes cast were by people over the age of 60.   This group is growing.   when is the Conservative Party going to recognise this?   We should be targeting this age group.   The obsession with the young is admirable but will not give the kin=d of returns that we would get by targeting the old.   Perhaps we should be demanding a few Conservative old age pensioners should be on the Candidates List or would that be ageism?
How the Party can save money!
It was announced last week by David Cameron that he "will ask the Party to adopt a final version of the statement of aims and values by putting it to a ballot of the entire membership."   So what are these aims and values?   I quote:
Our Aims
To improve the quality of life for everyone through:
A dynamic economy
A strong society
A sustainable environment
Our Values
The more we trust people, the stronger they and society become.
We're all in this together - government, business, the voluntary sector, families and individuals.   We have a shared responsibility for our shared future.
If any Conservative disagrees with this let me know and I will pass their name to Central Office and to their local Doctor.    By doing this I will be able to save the Party tens of thousands of pounds on a pointless, useless exercise which insults the intelligence of normal people.    What maniac came up with this idea?   Just how stupid will the Party look when the result is announced that 99.9% have voted Yes and 0.01% have voted No.?
Donations
In the "Evening Standard" this week it said:
"The Tories are no longer seeking donations of more than £50,000.   Party Treasurer Jonathan Marland said he did not "want to feel that one person was owning the party."    This is good news and a step in the right direction for it will help to concentrate the mind on increasing party membership, but I wonder what Stuart Wheeler and Lord Ashcroft (last known to be owed £3 million by the party) think of it?
February 26th
Candidates List
Good news!.   Howard Flight and Danny Kruger have been accepted onto the new Candidates List.   Congratulations to them.   Now what about Adrian Hilton?
Conservative Policy Forum
Many congratulations to the Conservative Policy Forum on getting its new format off the ground.   It has also made a good start with the CPF web site.   This has tremendous potential.   At last the Party is moving into the 21st Century.   One other point, on Friday I took the opportunity of putting a question onto the feedback part of the site.    I had a response within 24 hours.   This is excellent.    Well done.
Democracy
How can it be right that three unelected members of a Tribunal who are unaccountable to anybody can overturn the democratic decision of the electorate of London?   This is an utter disgrace.    The Conservative Party should be protesting from the roof tops.    Thank goodness Steve Norris spoke out, but where were our parliamentarians?    Oh of course, they were on holiday, except for Therese Villiers MP who was on "Question Time" and gave an appalling response to a question about the evil David Irving by saying she wanted further curtailments of free speech.   If she represents the Conservative Party God help us!
February 19th
Triple Whammy
This week was a bad week for the United Kingdom.   The three principles of Freedom Liberty and Justice came under attack by this Labour Government.   The Conservative Party put up a valiant defence on two of the principles but unfortunately on the third a number of Conservatives helped this Government on its way to creating a fascist dictatorship.
Freedom moved a step away when the government got its way over ID cards.    Soon they will be compulsory.    Information is power and the power of the State over all we do is increasing and should be diminished.   A vicious government will begin to use this power.    Privacy is dead.   We will be followed by the State wherever we are.   They will know all that we do. and they will use this information for their own ends.
Liberty took a knock with the ban on smoking.   In a free society the rights of minorities are recognised, otherwise we end up with the tyranny of the majority.   This will fundamentally undermine democracy.   We know that this is what the Labour Party wants but why oh why did some Conservatives support them.   They should hang their heads in shame.    Foxhunting banned, smoking banned, what next.   Who will speak up for the 18 million that did not vote at the last general election.   Sooner rather than later the people will take to the streets to throw this lousy rotten government out.   Will it be any wonder if Conservatives who supported them were tarred with the same brush?
Justice  will be badly damaged by the Government winning the vote regarding the "glorification" of terrorism.    Whatever does this mean?   Guy Fawkes, Nelson Mandela, the the 1916 Easter rising by the IRA - who will arrest Bertie Aherne next time he visits Downing Street?   The lawyers will have a field day.   Unfortunately it will be used against people that the government does not like.
On top of all this we had Tony Bliar calling Guantanamo Bay an "anomaly".   Does this man not realise that Guantanamo Bay is a pussy boil seeping all over the face of humanity?   The World wants it closed down and Tony Bliar calls it an "anomaly".     Doesn't it make you sick?
February 12th
Party Conference
So now we know, the Party Conference this year will start on Sunday 1st October.   What happened to all those promises about attracting young people and people at work?   How many of them will turn up in Bournemouth on a Sunday knowing that the following day they have got to go to work?   I sometimes wonder if our Lords and masters live in the real world.
Congratulations to David
Many congratulations to David Cameron for raising constitutional issues this week by setting up the Democracy Commission with Ken Clarke.   The Commission will look at the Royal Prerogative, a modest start at looking at our Constitution, but nevertheless a very important issue to be resolved if we want to create a 21st century democracy.
Parliamentary Candidates
The row over candidates continues.   A number are getting together to challenge what is being done with the candidates list.    What would be a disaster would be a legal challenge, but the candidates collectively could be a powerful voice within the Party.   They just need to organise themselves.
5th February
Conservative Policy Forum
This week the Conservative Policy Forum under Oliver Letwin published its proposals for how it is to be organised in the future.    Congratulations first of all for listening to the members and also for listening to COPOV.   A number of our proposals were taken up.   We welcome the scrapping of the fee for membership of the Forum and the move to making it interactive.   We think it is excellent to link the briefs to the six challenges identified by David Cameron.   Could we add a seventh i.e. Ken Clarke's Democracy Task force.
We welcome regional forums and one day conferences.   This is all excellent news and should mean more participation by ordinary members in the development of policy.   We will closely watch to see how things develop.
What is not clear from Oliver Letwin's letter is who is in charge of the Policy Forum.   Who is Chairman?    Will the Policy Forum comply with the Party's Constitution or is that Constitution to be ignored or changed?   What is missing out of the Forum is democratic accountability.   What is Oliver Letwin going to do about that?
Spring Forum
Traditionally there has been a dinner at the Spring Forum, but those that have now received their application forms will know that there is no mention of dinner.   I wonder why?   Could it be that on the Friday evening we are all going to be asked to go canvassing in Manchester?    For those that do not know Manchester the "gay" district is not far from the Forum venue, in this politically correct age for those who may or may not be interested.
The Missing Voters
At the Bow Group this week Lord Tebbitt made some interesting points.   His main one was about the 18 million voters that failed to vote in the last election.   There is considerable danger in ignoring these non voters.   Sooner or later a politician will begin to address their issues.
Since 1992 the Conservative Party has lost 5 million people that used to vote for it.   Since 1997 the Labour Party has lost 4 million people that used to vote for it.   All three main parties are scrabbling around targeting the 10% of seats which are marginal and within those seats the 10% of voters that are floating i.e approx. 350,000 voters, which under our distorted electoral system are the only ones that count.   There is a huge prize waiting for the party which researches why the 18 million did not vote.   The Conservative party should put some effort into this.
It is into a large political vacuum that the seeds of fascism are allowed to grow.   The main parties seem to be forgetting this.
I D Cards
Under the proposed I D card legislation will the citizens of Ireland resident in the United Kingdom be required to carry them?    Or is this another anomaly to add to the one whereby they can vote in elections to the United Kingdom Parliament although they have no allegiance to the United Kingdom.
January 29th
Good Timing
The same weekend as the Spring Forum, Manchester United are playing at home.   As is usual they have block booked some of the hotels, so if you want to be sure that you have a hotel for the Spring Forum book it now.   Of course it would be a help if the Application forms were available.    Could it be a crafty manoeuvre to make sure that not many are at the National Convention so that some of the controversial rule changes can be pushed through?
Candidates
In spite of David Cameron saying that there is a "Freeze on Selection" we hear that candidates are still being fast tracked.    Congratulations to Penny Mordaunt in Portsmouth North and Deirdre Allen in Birmingham Edgbaston.   Is it just a coincidence that both are women?    Are any men being fast tracked?   We would like to know.    Has all this got anything to do with the replacement of Simon Mort as Chairman of the Candidates Committee?   We hear he clashed with Bernard Jenkins MP - the Vice Chairman.
How to make friends
We hear that David Cameron has rather upset Angela Merkel of Germany and Sarkozy of France.   Can William Hague pour oil on troubled waters when he is in Belgium this week?
Party Chairman
We see from the Sunday papers that Lord Ashcroft is not demanding the repayment of his £2.5 million loan which is due on the 31st January.   To the contrary he has added another £1 million to it.    Without his help the Party would be in deep trouble.   I wonder if his ambition is to be Party Chairman.   As I have said to him on many occasions stand for election and I would nominate him!   It was pointed out to me this week that the most powerful people on the Party Board are now Francis Maude, Lord Ashcroft, Jonathan Marland and Raymond Monbiot.   Interesting.
BBC Licence
The BBC has suddenly found a new source of income which could have a massive impact.   Businesses are being targeted as to whether they have broadband on their computers or mobile telephones.   If so, they can tune in to the BBC and a Licence is required.   Has this been taken into account in determining the price of the new license?   I think we should be told.   Have you got a license?
January 22nd
"Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad"
Central Office have announced changes to the membership subscriptions applicable from 1st January 2007.   Subscriptions for the under 23s and the over 65s are to be reduced to a minimum of £8.00 from the current £15.00.   The normal subscription is to be increased to £16.00 and there after to be increased each year by the rise in inflation.   The affiliation for each member to be paid by constituencies is being increased from £2.50 to £5.50.
Have they consulted the members?    No!   Are they barmy? Yes!   I didn't think the Gods were trying to destroy the Party, but Central Office must be going mad.   Work it out.
At present there are 250,000 members paying the minimum subscription of £15.00 bringing in a total income of £3,750,000.    Of this £2.50 per member goes to Central Office i.e. £625,000 leaving the Constituencies with £3,125,000.
The average age of a Party member is over 65.   Therefore it is safe to assume that 50% of them are eligible to take advantage of the new minimum subscription of £8.00.   If they do the Constituencies income becomes 125,000 x £16.00 = £2,000,000 plus 125,000 x £8.00 = £1,000,000.   Added together this amounts to £3,000,000, but they now have to pay 250,000 x £5.50 affiliation fees to Central Office i.e. £1,375,000, so their net income drops from £3,125,000 to £1,625,000.   Their income has almost halved.
In addition to this folly many Associations have spent a great deal of time and effort to get their members to pay by Standing Order.    Are they going to have to write to them every year asking for an increase.    We know what will happen if they do - many cancellations.
This is the way to destroy the Constituency Associations.   Central Office have forgotten that the 21st Century proposals were not passed by the National Convention but it is acting as though they were; a bit like the European Union and the Constitution.   We are told that 200 Constituency Associations are being merged into 58 with the agreement of the Constituencies (have they consulted their members?)   The dictatorship goes on.    Maybe the Gods are right.   Incidentally I hear that the two thirds majority rule for changes to the Party Constitution is under review.   I wonder why!
In addition to this madness the Loan Scheme from Constituency Associations is about to be changed so that any Constituency Loan has to be for a minimum of 5 years.   If a Constituency can lend money to Central Office for five years it ought to hand it over completely, except that when it does there is no accountability as to how it will be spent.   Watch for a mass withdrawal of funds from Central Office when the Constituencies find out what is happening.  Who dreamt this one up?
Sooner or later someone will realise that in a voluntary organisation you do far better carrying people with you rather than dictating from above but then democracy has never been Central Office's strong point!
Candidates
Simon Mort was telling us how busy he was going to be, going around the country telling people about how the candidates list will work.   He was appointed Chairman of the Candidates Committee at the end of October 2005.   Well, surprise, surprise, he will now be spending more time with his family because he has been replaced by former Chairman of Kensington and Chelsea Shireen Ritchie (Madonna's mother in law).   We hear that Virginia Bottomley has also joined the Committee.   It increasingly looks like a female take-over.    What is happening to that transparency we were promised by David Cameron?    It is time we were told just what is going on.   All the more reason why the Chairman of the Candidates Committee should be elected by and accountable to the National Convention.
15th January
Spring Forum
Do you want to go to the Spring Forum?    The agents have not been given any information so try the Party website.    It says that application forms can be obtained on the site and will be available from mid December.   Has somebody forgotten to put them on?    If they are on where are they?   At this rate there will be nobody there.
Tory Finance
On January 1st under Tory Finance I showed how the Party needed £24,000,000 in the last quarter of 2005 in order to end up with no overdraft.   It has been pointed out that I have forgotten the "Short" money i.e. State Funding, which will amount to approx. £5,000,000.   So thats alright then, Only £19,000,000 to go.
Congratulations
Congratulations to Mrs. Lucy Lee on being appointed the new National CPF co-ordinator.   We look forward to learning the future of the CPF.   One word of advice though Lucy, when you send out emails use the blind copy button.   Interesting though it is to get the entire database of the CPF I would not want it every time.
Freedom
Freedom is fragile and can quickly be destroyed.   In any free society the tyranny of the majority must be prevented.    That means that the majority should respect minorities.   We have seen under this Labour Government how they have attempted to destroy freedom.    They banned fox-hunting in spite of a large minority being in favour.    They are now looking to ban smokers from pubs and restaurants on the grounds that secondary smoking is harmful to employees, even if the employees don't mind.    What next?   Will cars be banned because of the pollution they create, or because of the numbers of people killed on the roads each year?    Will the obese be refused treatment by the NHS because in many cases their condition is brought on by themselves?   Will alcohol be banned in case some people become alcoholics?   Will dangerous sports be forbidden?
This "fascist" government will try to stop us doing everything.   Is our Guantanamo Bay just around the corner?    It is time for the British people to wake up to what is happening to them and it is time for the Conservative Party to speak with a loud voice in defence of freedom.    It has taken centuries to get our freedom.   Once lost it will take a long time to get it back.     
January 8th
Tory Finance again
Last week we quoted Lord Ashcroft's book "Dirty politics Dirty times" when he talked about Hove Association having £250,000 in the bank at the time of the General Election.   One of our correspondents writes:
Regarding your piece about Tory Finance and Hove saving money for a "rainy day":

I know that neighbouring Brighton Kemptown (2500 Labour majority) have
£250,000+ in their bank account and are spending several thousand a year on
an office they use about twice a month. Yet, they are unwilling to even hire
an agent which would help them get the seat back, let alone fund a high
profile campaign.

  What is it about these constituency Associations?   Why do they not spend their money fighting to win elections or pass it over to Central Office?   Some years ago (1990) when the Chairman of COPOV was the treasurer for Wessex Area (which consisted of some 80 constituencies) I managed to get hold of all their Balance Sheets.   To my amazement there was no less than £18,000,000 in net assets in the constituencies including liquid assets of £5,000,000.   There were two main reasons for the constituencies holding on to their cash.   The first one was the "rainy day" excuse, the second one was that they regarded Central Office as incapable of spending the money wisely and treated it as a black hole.
I asked the Constituencies to release some of their cash in exchange for which I would campaign for the Party to publish its Balance Sheet and Accounts (it did so in 1993) and also I would campaign for an elected Treasurer accountable to the members.   Their response was magnificent: they paid over £250,000 to Central Office (the highest amount ever paid by an Area either before or since) and increased their loans to the Party.   (Incidentally the interest free loan scheme was started by the Beaconsfield Association in 1980 when I was treasurer).
What we have not got is the elected Treasurer and Central Office still seem to be capable of chucking money down the drain.    When Lord Ashcroft decided to give £2,000,000 to the Party for marginal seats just before the last Election he gave it to them directly.   In his book he says rather diplomatically "It was during my time as party Treasurer that I noticed how the resources of the party were not always used in the most constructive way."   If a former party Treasurer thinks that it is no wonder the constituencies hesitate to hand over their money.
In the last accounts of the Party the Constituency Associations had £4,316,000 in loans to the Party.   Much of this could be turned into gifts.
It is time for there to be an elected Party Treasurer accountable to the membership and for the Constituencies to hand over some of their money.   The two go together.   How many other Constituencies are sitting on excess cash or investments?   Let us know and we will name them.
P.S. The present Treasurer spends his time fund raising for the Party.   This role should be re-defined for what it is, which is The Fund Raising Officer.   We are not arguing that this position be elected.
Membership
Now we know.   Since the General Election the Conservative Party has got 40,000 new members.   Normally after a General Election membership falls, but not this time.   Why?   Because we had a Leadership election in which the members could participate.    Ironically many of the new members were ineligible because of the three month rule.   Nevertheless if you want to increase membership make the Party more democratic.   That's how to build the Party - from the bottom up rather than dictates down.   Have you heard that David?
January 1st
Tory Finance
In his fascinating book "Dirty politics Dirty times" Michael Ashcroft makes the comment that "on or before 31 January 2006 the Conservative Party is due to repay me loans totalling £2.5 million."    How is the Party doing financially?   In an email to the National Convention sent on 20th December the Chairman of the Convention - Raymond Monbiot says "We are on track for no overdraft."
At 31st December 2004 the Party had £483,000 in the bank.   Excluding campaign expenditure the running costs of the Party were just under £20,000,000.   The costs of the General Election were £17,852,240.   Taking all these together with the repayment to Michael Ashcroft means that the Party had to raise approximately £40,000,000 to end up with no overdraft by 31st January 2006.
According to the Electoral Commission donations declared by the Conservative Party were:
    1st quarter                             8,050,707
    2nd quarter                            6,071,637
    3rd quarter                             2,361,483
                TOTAL                 £   16,483,827  
This leaves us just £24,000,000 to raise in the last quarter.   If this has been achieved then it will indeed be a record.    I wonder!     
One other point raised by Lord Ashcroft in his book is about the money Constituency Associations hold.   I quote "Indeed, one extremely talented candidate, Nicholas Boles, who was fighting Hove, had a constituency association with £250,000 in its coffers but he was told he could not have the money for his campaign because it was being kept for a rainy day."   He goes on "the seat was won by Labour, whose candidate polled just 420 votes more than Nicholas in the May 2005 general election.
It is no good Constituency Associations going on about Constituency autonomy if they behave like Hove.   I thought the days of Associations holding on to large sums was over.   There is no justification for it.   We are a political party and our job is to win elections.   In my experience Associations which sit on large lumps of money perform badly.   No Constituency should hang on to more than £15,000.    When I was treasurer of Wessex Area the Area agreed a motion stating this.    It is time this was revisited.
Did you Know?
The Texas legislature meets every other year.   Now that is what I call getting off the people's backs.    Maybe we should try it.   Over to you David.
December 24th
Cameron Will Save Europe From Itself 
Have you heard the old one about the EU being the end of European war?
It was NATO that has defended Europe from the Soviet threat, and US power that ended the
Second (and the First) World War.
The EU has based itself totally on a negative. Maybe nations will fight each other, went the
thinking...mmmm....I know...let's eliminate all the nations into a single power bloc!!!
And the EU was born.
However a little closer examination of the tendency of nations to go to war (or not), would
have thrown up something more durable. As Kant pointed out, no two democracies have ever
made war on each other. In fact democracy's greatest plus is its tendency to discourage war
(Bush's Iraq strategy is based on this idea - yet to see if it will actually work). The EU in
eliminating nation states is unfortunately eliminating many long established democracies as it
goes....not such a good plan really.
The three things that encourage warfare are ethnic rivalries, economic collapse and the
decline of empires. Here again the EU performs poorly. It is creating an empire - or a political
structure by eliminating all the nation states, but it is bound itself to collapse in time - as all
centralised blocs have done throughout history. The EU is creating one of the key causes of
future war - that is, itself.
As for collapsing economies, the EU is creating the slowest growth region in the world.
Unemployment and especially youth unemployment is at disaster levels...see the riots in
France and many other similar events that somehow go unreported across Europe. The
European economy is teetering in a period of rapid world-wide growth. Its pathetic economic
performance is a potential cause of future war. - just add war-making ingredient number three.
Ethnic tensions. The EU has brought together the elites of Europe - corrupt, incompetent,
self-serving as they are. It has done little or nothing to bring the peoples any closer together.
In fact there is more hatred being generated by forcing ethnic groups together who would far
prefer to stay separate.
The French/German hatred is the key faultline in the European ethnic divide. It took the
Russian threat, and American power to keep it in check for the last sixty years. The French
have had to be given everything on a plate to keep them happy, and the Germans have
agreed to cripple their economic potential inside the Euro, and with ridiculously high social
costs.
In the end the world is moving on. The EU has locked France and Germany into the past.
When the locks break, the tension will be bad. It would be better to allow people to move into
the future by degrees, and not create barriers to change as the EU has done. France and
Germany are boiling up, and it's getting dangerous.
No in total, the EU is the greatest threat to peace imaginable. David Cameron wants to move
Europe forward by abandoning ever closer union and the elimination of nation states. He
wants to create the new localism which will bring democracy right back down to the human
level, and in the process make Europe a fee trading group of true democracies. This will save
war...not the stuck views of Ken Clarke and his ilk.
We must exit the EPP urgently. It should have happened years ago. It cannot be delayed any
longer. Change must arrive in the Euro lock-up, and Cameron's Conservatives will be at the
vanguard.

October 30th              
FROM THE GRASS ROOTS
BY
A CONSERVATIVE
A NEW LEADER - DAVID CAMERON?
In my last article I sang the praises of David Davis stating that if I, as an ordinary party
member had a vote, he was my choice. Well they say there is more joy in Heaven for one
sinner who repenteth etc., and I openly admit I have changed my mind. Provided he is on the
ballot paper (and at the time of writing this seems increasingly likely) David Cameron will be
my choice.
Michael Howard’s last great service to our party was to ensure that in full view of the party
representatives at Blackpool and the media, each of his prospective successors was given a
chance to set out his vision for the future and how our party, with its long and proud history
stretching back over three centuries, could adapt in a world that is for ever changing.
Both Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Kenneth Clarke, having held high Cabinet office under
Margaret Thatcher and John Major, have the most experience. But both are men of the 80’s
and 90’s. Ken Clarke may have the most appeal among non Conservative voters but that
might well be a handicap. There will always be support from those who will never vote for you,
and during his time as Health and Education Secretary, he did not endear himself to many
professionals in these sectors – people whose votes we need to secure in the future – and I
take seriously the comment made that future Prime Minister Brown would always be
throwing up Ken Clarke’s enthusiasm for the Euro and further European integration. Ken
Clarke is what R.A. Butler was to us in the 60’s and Denis Healey to Labour in the 80’s – the
best potential Prime Minister the country never had.
On the left of our Party, I will also tend to vote for the person who reflects best my kind of
Conservatism. Dr Liam Fox, I understand, gave a careful and measured speech to the
conference and this was well received. But he is on the right. As a Celt, I am not prejudiced
against the Scots, but I do wonder why even Conservatives who have Scottish accents can, it
seems, no longer be elected for Scottish seats. (Sir Malcolm Rifkind is, of course, another
example.)
David Davis, the front runner until Blackpool, has all the qualities mentioned in my previous
article. And, although I did not myself hear his speech (nor, for that matter, those of the other
candidates), by all accounts he ‘fluffed’ it and his speech was not well received. Although he
supposedly had the support of 66 MPs at least ten of them were '‘flaky'’and were backing
him only because he looked the likely winner. And how would he fare across the despatch box
against either Tony Blair or Gordon Brown? From what I have read many MPs and many
party members would only reluctantly support him now and it would be because they liked his
opponent even less.
Which brings me to David Cameron. For me, his youth, energy and enthusiasm, make up for
what he lacks in experience. He has charisma and can reach out to all sections of society. He
has a handicapped son, uses the Health Service and knows all about its successes and
deficiencies (essential for a Conservative). He will be able to use the media (particularly
television) to his advantage and will, I confidently predict, easily communicate with first time
voters who are "Blair’s children". His education and background have, of course, given him
many advantages but I believe he is the man to, not only substantially increase our vote in
2009/2010, but also gain us many more Members of Parliament.
So it now remains for our MPs to give us a choice and for two candidates finally to emerge. I
hope the grass roots choice is the same as our Parliamentarians. What we cannot afford is
another crisis in two years time similar to the one that overtook Iain Duncan Smith in 2003.
And we must plan for the long term. We do have an ageing membership and if you are
prepared to accept the findings of focus groups, well behind in certain key ‘voter groups’.
This should only spur us on to greater endeavour. We still have lots of young people
supporting us – they are our future and our country’s future. But we should never rubbish the
achievements of past Conservative Governments or let others say we are "nasty", "out of
touch", or "looking only after ourselves" without challenging such assumptions. We should be
proud to say we vote Conservative and we should be able to say why we do so.
After our defeat in 1945, our party was forced to modernise in the wake of the great changes
wrought by the then Labour Government, notably its nationalisation programme, and its
setting up of the Welfare State and National Health Service. We did so, assisted by the
Conservative Research Department headed by R.A. Butler, and this led to 13 years of
Conservative Government, under four Prime Ministers, three of whom were educated at Eton
(a good omen for David Cameron). Was it not a Conservative manifesto or pamphlet that was
headed "Change is our Ally" Our new leader faces a very difficult task. We are flat-lining in
the polls at 30-33%, have only four MPs outside England and in many parts of the urban
north our organisation is virtually non existent. I sincerely hope that after this leadership
election everyone will pull together and that we can get back into the habit of winning and as
the Americans say "Win big", for we are all sick of being ridiculed in the press as no hopers
and also rans. Our first test will be in the local elections next May, particularly in London
. Can we win in places such as Harrow, Merton, Kingston and Sutton where we have lost
Parliamentary seats either to Labour or to the Liberal Democrats? Can we make inroads in
what is now one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world?
On the national scene, I seriously believe the Government has created all sorts of trouble for
itself. It has had plenty of luck particularly with the economy (and incidentally I believe
Michael Howard was right when he said it is difficult to depose governments in times of
prosperity) which may now be running out. Our economy may well be out of balance partly
because we are spending more than we have earned. The Pensions industry is in crisis and
difficult decision are being postponed – the non revaluation of properties in England for
Council tax purposes being the most obvious example. Nearly half the population is living on
benefits of one sort or another and we have the most complex and difficult system of
taxation/tax credits anywhere – so difficult that even the best qualified accountants cannot
understand it.
Our education policy is built on the assumption that there must be no losers and in some
subjects an ‘A’ grade is awarded at a percentage level which 40 years ago would have
merited ‘fail’ or ‘unclassified’. What were once pretty villages in many parts of rural England
are now extensions of the bigger conurbations and cities. Many councils, if they do not build
houses themselves, are being forced to employ private developers to do so – often against the
wishes of local inhabitants.
There is no doubt that the events of September 1992 and the slow and painful demise of John
Major’s Government, coupled with the ‘sleaze’ factor, left many of our former supporters not
only disillusioned but angry. (And I note that Labour is trying to make much of the fact that
David Cameron was a special adviser to Norman Lamont on Black Wednesday.) We have
had four leaders in that time, two Chancellors and six Shadow Chancellors. The last two
General Elections have seen us ‘shore up’ our core vote and little else. In 2005 we gained 33
seats and have 51 new Members of Parliament. Young people, such as the environmentalist
Zac Goldsmith, are showing an interest in us. We must improve our organisation at the grass
roots. In spite of new technology in this computer age we need more agents. Every seat
currently having a Conservative MP and every marginal requiring a ‘swing’ of 6% or less,
should have an agent who has the’nous’ or his (or her) Constituency. Hopeless seats in former
mining or industrial areas can then be grouped in fours or fives with one agent between them.
At one time (not that long ago) our organisation was Rolls Royce. Now in many parts of the
country, it is either an old ‘banger’ or completely ‘clapped out’.
No-one can foretell the future. Just as disaster overtook us in 1992, we do not know what
might lie in store for the present Government. Our difficulties have been compounded by the
fact that, under Tony Blair, Labour has ceased to be a Socialist Party in the sense that
nationalising huge chunks of industry is now as dead as a dodo. There is, of course, still the
bureaucratic meddling, interference, target setting, ‘nanny’ state, Government knows best
attitude, which appeals to many. Some (including Conservatives) will claim there is no appetite
for a smaller state.
All parties are coalitions. We have to be careful that we are not landed with the tag ‘an
extreme right wing party’ It is very easy to say we must change or we must modernise. But is
very difficult to put this into practice – even more so when ‘Conservative’ means ‘resistance
to change’.
If we do elect David Cameron as our new leader, we will have decisively broken away from
our past and the shadow of Margaret Thatcher which has hung over us for the last 15 years.
In 1975, in electing Margaret Thatcher, our own party abandoned the prevailing consensus of
the previous 30 years. We are at last banishing the "Is he one of us?" mentality, which has
blighted us for so long. David Cameron with his "There is a we, as well as a me" philosophy
is setting the tone. We should back him and given him two Parliaments to get us back into
Government. We have to plan for the long term, because the short term fixes of the last eight
years have got us nowhere. You only need to look at how many of our former so called ‘safe’
seats are now in the hands of either Labour or the Liberal Democrats. We have nothing to
lose and everything to gain by missing a generation.
Cometh the hour! Cometh the man!

October 23rd
TURKEYS SHOOT FOX
by
Henry Curteis

They call him the new Blair.  I see little substance to this 
comparison.  To be a Blair in the Conservative Party, a
charming young new leader would have to appear more as a
Labour MP, and talk of policies that sound sweet to Labour
voters' ears.

Cameron is the opposite.  He comes from a privileged 
background.  He appears a Tory toff.  He speaks like one, and
so far has declared almost no policies to appeal to anyone
making this aspect hard to judge, although the few policies
that have slipped out so far sound right-wing, as Alice Miles 
noticed.

That could of course be deliberate.  Where Cameron might have
much in common with Blair is an ability to hoodwink.  Blair
fooled Roy Jenkins and Paddy Ashdown who were both quite 
convinced he was going to bring in Proportional 
Representation, and they duly pulled their punches.  Cameron 
has persuaded moderniser Theresa May he is 'her' man, and he
has also persuaded Bernard Jenkin a eurosceptic, and Douglas
Carswell of Direct Democracy that their 
programme is his programme.

Michael Howard is sponsoring him, and even Ken Clarke the
arch Europhile saw fit to back his candidacy.  He cannot
possibly favour them all.  When you have declared no policies
and have no history like Cameron, it is easy to persuade
gullible MP's that you will be right behind whatever their pet
project is.They say that victory has 1000 fathers, but defeat
is an orphan.  Perhaps just the chance to be on the winning
team was enough to draw them in, once the media started the
Push Cameron campaign at the Party Conference.  The media
campaign kept Cameron's face to the fore, totally ignored 
Liam Fox and dumped David Davis, and lasted just over two 
weeks.  It was uniform across all media, and was clearly
orchestrated.  It reminded me of the media campaign that ended
the leadership of IDS.  Who or what is behind these short
bursts of media energy that chorale Conservative MP's into
dumping or choosing their leaders?  All you can say is that
the MP's have fallen for it each time.

By eliminating Liam Fox, Cameron has been installed in an
unassailable position by MP's.  Far from being obliged to
carry out any promises he has made, he can now begin to 
ignore them Blair-style.  The turkeys have after all voted
for Christmas.      

October 16th
Fox to Save Turkeys
by
Henry Curteis

They say that turkeys don't vote for Christmas.  Conservative 
MP's and members who vote for Cameron could well be falling
into a 'turkey' trap.  With great comedians you can never
remember any of the jokes.  So it is with great speeches.
  You remember feeling uplifted by the sentiments, but unless 
you actually write down the words, you can rarely recall what 
was actually said.  Cameron's speech was no exception - good
enough to win the accolades, but nothing much in the way of
content that was memorable.

Given that there is little substance in the policy arena on 
offer, just a youthful energetic charm machine, it seems 
bizarre that Cameron is getting wing to wing support in the 
Rupert Murdoch media empire, and also with the BBC.  The media
recognise exactly the man they want - someone so dependent on
their good image that they - the media - will be in a position
to exert maximum leverage upon them.  A mutual interdependence
is being established, which will of course be exploited 
ruthlessly should it pay off.

In Cameron the media see not strength that they must respect 
but weakness of the kind they can eat for dinner.  The views
of MP's would soon become secondary, those of the membership 
irrelevant - even the views of the public.  As with Blair, 
good media support is all that is needed in the mediocracy 
game.  A Cameron regime would become a media regime.  No 
wonder Murdoch is so excited.

MP's would be mad to back Cameron, except for Boris Johnson of
course, whose media career needs an urgent uplift.  Fox must
provide the escape route for the Conservative Party from 
this toxic media embrace.

Henry Curteis
                        

August 15th                          
BRITAIN – THE WORLD’S FIRST MEDIOCRITY
 by
Henry Curteis

The signs are encouraging that the Conservative Constituency Chairmen are going to make a stand against the new rules on electing the leader. However the rule-change manipulators are not done yet.  They will no doubt bar some Constituency Chairmen’s votes, by a new interpretation of procedural rules.  Those that don’t comply will be barred, and bureaucracy will triumph over democracy.

In the end of the day, the rule change manipulators are in the business of snuffing out democracy in the Conservative Party.  They rely not on winning votes, but on a compliant or even supportive media, and a baffled and disinterested public.  If the upcoming vote is rigged, then who exactly is going to stop them?

The Conservative Party is the last democratic party in British politics.  Once Conservative democracy is lost, British democracy already teetering on the edge, is lost. 

Labour have abandoned the House of Commons, by for example committing Britain to sourcing all our military hardware from within Europe without even a debate or a vote in Parliament.  The primary arena of government is no longer the debating chamber of the Commons or even discussions in Cabinet but the media.  The General Election was a fiasco with Labour running a highly dubious postal vote campaign without which they would have lost power.  Of Labour’s 9.5 million votes about 4.5 million were postal votes, plenty enough to rig a few seats.  They are making no attempt to close the postal vote loophole, but are considering extending it to include email or even text message voting.

If the same efforts to corrupt and eliminate democracy are successful within the Conservative Party, it will not be just the Conservative Party which will sink, but all traces of the democracy which Britain claims to be fighting to promote in the Middle East.  Britain will be the first mediocracy, where no vote can achieve anything, and the media control holds sway.  The bureaucrats whether Conservative, Labour or whatever will finally have won.

Henry Curteis

July 31st                            
FROM THE GRASS ROOTS
BY
A CONSERVATIVE
Torbay – Conservative Once Again in 2009/2010?
I have just returned from a brief holiday in Torquay, part of the Torbay constituency in South Devon. As I sat in Torbay Road, overlooking the calm sea, bathed in brilliant sunshine, with the Riviera Centre and Gardens behind me, I wondered how our Party had let this beautiful part of the country, once the home of blue rinsed matrons and the retired military, slip out of its grasp into the hands of the Liberal Democrats.
For 70 years until 1997, Torbay (known as Torquay until 1983) had returned Conservative MPs. Until 1983, the majority, firstly over Labour and latterly over the Liberals, had never been less than 12,000 with a Conservative vote of anything between 26,000 and 30,000. In the year of Margaret Thatcher's 1979 triumph, the vote had shot up to 36,000 and a 20,000 majority over the Liberals. But 1983 marked a significant change. The boundary changes, combined with the Liberal Democrat alliance successfully "squeezing" a Labour vote of 12,000 in 1979, saw a substantial reduction in the Conservative vote (down 10,000) and a majority cut to just under 7,000. A Daily Telegraph headline at the time "Tories Concerned About Torbay" reflected growing anxiety about the Liberal Democrat advance. A new Conservative MP, Rupert Allason, (writer of spy thrillers under the pen name of Nigel West) steadied the ship in 1987 when he was elected with an 8,000 majority, replacing the right winger Sir Frederick Bennett who had held the seat for 32 years since 1955. Allason was re-elected in 1992, polling 28,000 votes. The local council was by now Liberal Democrat controlled and in the slaughter of 1997, Allason’s vote slipped to 21,000 (a loss of 25%), and he was ousted by local Liberal Democrat and current MP Adrian Saunders. Since then it has been downhill all the way. In 2001, the Conservative vote dropped to 17,000 (Saunder’s majority increasing to nearly 7,000) and remained virtually the same in 2005, although the Liberal Democrat majority, cut to just over 2,000, was largely as a result of a substantial increase in the Labour and UKIP votes.
Torquay has always had its less salubrious parts and a fairly large anti-Conservative vote which has in recent times flocked to the Liberal Democrats as the only realistic alternative. The local council has been Liberal Democrat controlled for 12 of the last 16 years. Torquay is now classed as a "chav" town "more like Beirut on a bad night dressed up in Burberry baseball caps and Adidas trainers! Even so, it still has quiet leafy districts and quaint coves. But more and more people are leaving the big cities and coming to the seaside town. And many are not natural Conservative voters. With property prices easily outstripping inflation and council tax rises affecting particularly those on fixed incomes, the young, middle aged and elderly are all finding it difficult to make ends meet in a town where wages are still below the national average and a lot of the work is seasonal.
The council is receiving its fair share of the blame and the Liberal Democrats, having tasted power, are no longer the dumping ground for the dissatisfied voter. Which is why in the very week I was there, the voters decided they wanted a directly elected Major. And as the Torbay Herald put it in its editorial "There can be little doubt the poor performance and perception of the council, over a decade and in particular in recent years, has been of a local authority that has lost touch with the people who pay its wages and use its services. Some decisions taken of late have beggared belief and caused despair, resentment and even contempt."
So what are our chances in 2009/2010? The recapture of Torbay, like many other similar constituencies, has to be high on our list. Much will depend on the qualities of our new leader and how he or she can reconnect not only with the 6 million or so voters we have lost since 1992, but also with those young voters casting their ballots for the first time. It seems to me that we are at our best when we are boldest: when we do the unusual. I am not sure whether under the proposed changes I shall have a vote in the leadership election. I readily accept that the leader must be acceptable to all sections of the Party, but it would be folly to return to the situation as in 2001 where the elected leader was acceptable to only 33% of the MPs and 60% of the membership. There must surely be a better way of electing the leader. We must, at all costs, avoid the disaster which overtook Iain Duncan Smith. We have a number of candidates, but if I have a vote, I shall back David Davis. My reasons are as follows:
His roots and upbringing (single mother, council estate) mean that he understands the problems of being disadvantaged.
He does not carry the baggage from previous Conservative administrations.
He is the only member of the Shadow Cabinet to have forced the resignation of two Home Office Ministers – Beverley Hughes and, more importantly, David Blunkett.
He comes over well on television and is a fighter.
He believes that there is a moral case for lower taxation and that money on the public services could be more effectively spent.
He can take on the Liberal Democrats – witness the increase of over 3,000 votes and the doubling of his majority in 2005.
He is someone you could easily enjoy having a pint with. In the past too many of our members have seemed remote, aloof, and distant from the people they are supposed to represent.
The recent by-election at Cheadle, a Conservative held seat in the 80s and early 90s, shows the mountain we have to climb. It was always going to be difficult given the circumstances. A new candidate (as opposed to the twice-defeated former MP) would have been a breath of fresh air and would at least have shown we were not afraid of change. The simple truth is that until we start winning back the Cheadles and Torbays we have no chance of forming the next Government.
In conclusion, let me return to Torbay. Since 1992, we have managed to lose 11,000 votes. Judging by the Torbay Herald Express there is disillusionment with all political parties. This was reflected in 2005 when despite massive postal voting; the turnout was only 62% nationally. I believe to be certain of winning this seat again, we need to add a further 50% to our ‘core’ of 17,000 – that is 25,000 votes. We need to adopt the ‘pavement politics’ of our Liberal Democrat opponents. Hard work and door knocking over the next four years could ultimately bring rich rewards. But do we have the resources available and the will to mount such a challenge? I know nothing about our organisation in Torbay, but the facts speak for themselves – we can't get out all our vote. (It would not surprise me if at least 4,000 former Tory voters did not vote last May.) Most importantly, the local party must chose a candidate acceptable to the people of Torbay and one who can win over both Liberal Democrats and abstainers. I suspect that in Torbay, many of our voters and many in the constituency party are over 65 years of age and are not as active or as mobile as they once were. This, therefore, places greater responsibility on what younger members we have. These younger members – often have full time jobs and young families and can only devote a certain amount of time to political activity. Such time must be used effectively. Torbay, whether through complacency or other unconnected factors, somehow slipped from the Conservative fold. It is unlikely it will ever be a ‘safe’ Conservative seat again. It will be won back eventually, and is a classic Liberal Democrat/Conservative marginal – a ‘swing’ of less than 3% is needed. The Torbay result will show how well we are doing next time round.

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