Saturday, July 16, 2011

2008 archive (Jan-May)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Week
Julialong.JPG (2128622 bytes)Canvassing in Slough for the local elections on May 1st with Cllr. Julia Long.   Julia is one of the unsung heroines of the Tory Party.   She was Mayor of Slough in 2004/5.   In two hours of canvassing I only came across two Labour voters.   Looking good for Julia
DG & HH.JPG (1848956 bytes)br&eh.JPG (1469325 bytes)IMG_0055.JPG (1372205 bytes)
Dominic Grieve QC MP with the new Chairman of the Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association - Heather HarperRetiring Chairman Bryan Rigby with the President of BCCA Earl HoweNational Convention Vice President Emma Pidding with Earl Howe,
and James Elles MEP
Excellent Annual General Meeting of the Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association   With a contested election for Chairman the members turned out in force with 150 attending.   Thats what democracy does.    Adrian Hilton and Heather Harper fought it out.  Adrian made a brilliant speech setting out his vision of the future but Heather being a former Womens Committee Chairman had stronger support.   Good contest.  Excellent speech from Dominic Grieve, although contrary to press reports I thought he ruled out support for the government when they try to increase the powers of the Attorney General.
AKnightCCF.JPG (1627643 bytes)Angela Knight, former Conservative MP for Erewash addressing the City Conservative Forum .   She is now the Chief Executive of the British Banking Association - probably the worst job in the City of London at the moment.   She put forward a forceful defence of British Banking, but to an ordinary person banking is now seen as fat cat executives getting big bonuses for gambling with public money and when it all goes wrong they walk away with a nice fat pay off.   When the Chief Executive of Citibank, which has lost billions, is paid 200 times more than a cleaner in the bank something is wrong.   When we see bank executives getting paid sensible salaries and cutting out the incentives to gamble then the public perception will begin to change.
Another disappointment.    David Cameron congratulates the Australian Premier for signing the Kyoto Agreement.   This agreement is dead meat.   One day soon the politicians will have to admit that man made Global warming is a confidence trick.
In a knee jerk reaction the Tory Party promises to fight the abolition of the 10p rate in the budget, but doesn't say where they would raise the £7 billion it raises.   The simplification of the tax system is a good idea, so we should welcome the abolition of the 10p rate, which in any case was brought in by Gordon Brown.   What should have happened was the personal allowances should have been altered so the poorest did not lose out.    Disappointing start to the week.

Pub Ban
It has been suggested that Alistair Darling should be banned from pubs for putting up the duty on beer and spirits.    A better idea would be to ban from pubs all MPs that voted for the ridiculous regulations about smoking.   27 pubs are being closed down every week partly due to these intolerable regulations.   Do not MPs understand that every time 14 million smokers have to go outside in the wind and rain for a smoke they curse all politicians, and we wonder why they are so despised!
MPs Expenses
Is it true that since the row over MPs expenses blew up, 70 MPs no longer employ members of their family?   Do MPs really understand how bad this looks to the public?   As more information comes out it is quite clear that there was systematic exploitation of the expense regime by MPs.    Perhaps it would be easier to draw up a list of those MPs who did not exploit the system.   Send in your nominations now to COPOV
My Week
Brilliant articles by Lord Lawson about climate change in the Daily Mail and Sunday Telegraph.   Thank goodness there is at least one member of the establishment that talks common sense.   At last the people are rumbling the politicians.
Conservativehome has put a great fight on its web site over the crazy system of selecting our MEPs.   They deserve all our support in the fight.   I understand that the Candidates Committee is reviewing the process and is due to report to the next meeting of the Party Board.    I hope our representatives on the Board will demand a re-run of this selection and this time it should be done democratically
Discussion on "Newsnight" about religion and politics between A. C. Grayling and the President of Yale University was excellent and in the highest standards of the BBC.   Yale is where Tony Bliar will lecture on faith.
What a pity the Ten o'clock news let the side down.   When it showed a graph of climate change in the world it started in 1940.   The graph was almost continuously upwards.   Of course if they had started it in 1930 a different picture would have been shown as the hottest year on record was 1933.
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Mark Field MP addresses the Annual General Meeting of the City Conservative Forum with Chairman Clare Coffey seated.
Arrived ten minutes late due to traffic in the City.   It is getting worse.   Lunch time meetings in the City are difficult.  Future meetings may be in the evening.   Clare in good form as sister Therese has just won top of the list for Southern Region for the European Parliament.   If the selection had not been rigged by Central Office she might have replaced an MEP.   The selection process shows blatant discrimination against women.   Mark Field spoke about the inherent dangers of the PFI initiatives with our children and grandchildren paying for these for many years to come.
This was a friendly reception with lots of young people, although females were scarce..   Michael Howard suggested that The Bow Group should do more research into the delivery of public services.   Had a discussion with Terry Bowers as to whether Michael Howard was Chairman before or after Peter Lilley.   Confusion when he told me Peter Lilley was Chairman twice.   I joined the Bow Group when Peter Lilley was Chairman, but was it the first or second time?    Speculation starting as to who the next Chairman of the Bow Group will be.
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Reception of The Bow Group in the Jubilee Room at the House of Commons.    The Chairman Chris Skidmore introduces Michael Howard MP (former Chairman) with Irene, the hard working secretary of The Bow Group in the background
European Parliament Candidate Selection
There is no truth in the rumour that the Conservative Party were advised by the Soviet Politburo on the conduct of the election of candidates for the European Parliament.   However we understand that they are green with envy at the way the results have been manipulated, and have requested a training session with Central Office.
This selection process is the most disgraceful manipulation of an election in the history of the Conservative Party.   It blatantly discriminated against women by rigging the process for sitting MEPs so that they were all reselected and guess what?   All were men.   At a meeting held yesterday seven out of twenty-one paid up Party members had not received their ballot papers.    Although the election was conducted by the Electoral Reform Society we have not been told how many ballot slips were issued to members, how many members voted, or what votes each candidate received.   The candidates have been told the voting figures for each candidate but have been told to keep this information confidential.    In Southern Region we know that 13,355 members voted out of potentially 60-80,000 members.   This is a miserable result being only 16-22% of the membership.   Of course we have also not been given the number of spoilt ballots, because that might just indicate what the members thought of this miserable undemocratic process.
We do know that in at least two cases women have been put at the top of the list, after MEPs, when they did not do as well as men on the list.   We also know that some candidates are now on the lists without even having been on the ballot paper, because candidates on the paper dropped out.   In the whole of Southern Region there were only three meet and greet meetings with the candidates.   They were not allowed to speak at the meetings.   No canvassing was allowed, so very few, if any members knew very much about all the candidates.  
To add to the disgrace, the letter from the Leader which accompanied the ballot papers was disingenuous.   It stated "This is the first time we have given every member of the Party a vote on the rankings, by postal ballot, and I hope you will take the opportunity to have your say".   In the last selection of candidates all those who voted were able to rank all the candidates, not just in two separate batches consisting of the MEPs and others, and they also participated in more than just the total list so that if a candidate dropped out they could be replaced by a candidate voted by the members.
It is no wonder that the people are disillusioned with politicians and with political parties.   When will they learn that when you distort democracy you destroy it.   Where is the voice of the voluntary party on the Party Board?   Why have they not spoken for the members, or did they just roll over?   No wonder no sensible person bothers to attend National Convention meetings.   What a waste of time they have become.
In the literature inviting people to become members of the Conservative Party it states that you will help choose our candidates for European elections.   This is a lie.   The members were given no choice.
In the invitation to become a Party member it states that you will receive:
  • a weekly newsletter
  • Regular updates on how to get involved in your local community
  • Access to our New affinity Programme which will give you discounts on a great range of products.
At a meeting of Conservative Party members of twenty one paid up members only one gets a weekly newsletter, none regular updates on how to get involved in the local community, and none knew of this New Affinity Programme.   Is someone telling porkies?
To those that voted for the Iraq war
Rudyard Kipling
THEY shall not return to us, the resolute, the young
    The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung,
    Shall they come with years and honour to the grave?They shall not return to us, the strong men coldly slain
    In sight of help denied from day to day:
But the men who edged their agonies and chid them in their pain,
    Are they too strong and wise to put away?
Our dead shall not return to us while Day and Night divide—
    Never while the bars of sunset hold.
But the idle-minded overlings who quibbled while they died,
    Shall they thrust for high employments as of old?
Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour?
    When the storm is ended shall we find
How softly but how swiftly they have sidled back to power
    By the favour and contrivance of their kind?
Even while they soothe us, while they promise large amends,
    Even while they make a show of fear,
Do they call upon their debtors, and take council with their friends,
    To confirm and re-establish each career?
Their lives cannot repay us—their death could not undo—
    The shame that they have laid upon our race.
But the slothfulness that wasted and the arrogance that slew,
    Shall we leave it unabated in its place?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Vote Won’t Count
John E. Strafford

In the 2005 General Election Labour won an overall majority of 66 seats, or 55.1% of seats with 35.2% of the vote. Only 21.6% or 9.6 million out of an electorate of 44.4 million voted for a Labour government. Turnout was 61.3%
Labour’s share of the vote in 2005 can be compared unfavourably to the support enjoyed in past elections by losing parties. Attlee’s share of the vote in 1955 when Eden’s Conservatives won a majority of 58, comparable to Blair’s majority in 2005 was an amazing 46.4%. Blair’s 35.2% is scarcely higher than Neil Kinnock’s share of the vote in 1992 (34.4%) and less than Jim Callaghan scored in 1979 in his unsuccessful bid for a third term (36.9%)
The Conservatives with 198 seats in Parliament were slightly under represented, in that if they had won seats exactly in proportion to their total vote they would have won 208. The Liberal Democrats had many fewer seats (62) than their share of the vote among the electorate justified – an exact proportional distribution would have given them 142. Labour was massively over represented: a proportional allocation would have given them 227 seats rather than 356.
In terms of votes per MP, Labour required 26,877, Conservatives 44,521 and the Liberal Democrats a massive 96,378. Even worse than the Liberal Democrats were the Ulster Unionists who only got one seat for the 127,414 votes cast for them.
Because of the generally low turnout no MPs polled a majority of the electorate in their own constituency. Only three polled more than 40% of the electorate. Conversely three MPs had votes from less than 20%. In Poplar and Canning Town the winning Labour candidate polled just 18.36%.
In England Labour have 92 more seats than the Conservatives in spite of them polling over 60,000 fewer votes. In Scotland the Conservatives polled nearly a sixth of the vote but had only one MP out of 59 to show for their pains.
In several regions of England the results were extremely unrepresentative. The worst case is probably the 1.1 million Conservative voters in the metropolitan counties outside London who elected only 5 MPs.
If 14,367 voters in the most marginal constituencies had switched from Labour to their nearest competitor, Labour would have lost its majority in the House of Commons.
Because of our electoral system the political parties are only interested in the 10% marginal constituencies and of those only the 10% who are floating voters. In other words 1% of the electorate. It is because the two main parties concentrate on this narrow focus that their policies converge.
Our electoral system is totally distorted. 400,000 foreigners (citizens of the Irish Republic) resident in the United Kingdom but owing no allegiance to it can vote in a General Election.
Each vote cast does not have an equal value. The average size of a Welsh constituency is about 55,000. For the rest of the UK it is 68,000. The Western Isles has an electorate of 21,585, the Isle of Wight 108,253. So a vote in the Western Isles is worth five times a vote in the Isle of Wight.
A study of the results of General Elections over the last hundred years shows that there is no correlation between the % votes a Party receives and the % number of seats it gets in the House of Commons. You might as well toss a coin for determining who should form the government. The truth of the matter is "Your Vote Wont Count". When will the media pundits and the politicians admit it?
PS If you do toss a coin it is the Conservative’s turn to win next time. Since 1945, Labour have won nine General Elections to the Conservative’s eight.

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

Re-Selection of MEPs
So the interviews are over and there are some good candidates on the ballot but what a shame that they were not chosen on merit.   In Southern Region there will be four women candidates and two men on the ballot.   I wonder what the position would have been if this had been an ordinary ballot done on merit?.   How many more, and better male candidates would we have had if it had not already been decided that whatever the result a woman would be put at the top of the rankings?   How democracy is destroyed!    In the last selection over 1,500 members took part in a democratic process.    This time 120 have in effect decided.   No wonder Party membership is in steep decline.
Applications for the Spring Forum
The application form for the Spring Forum asks for Passport No. and Driving License No.   What happens if you do not have a passport and do not drive?
Nice work if you can get it!
The great scandal of the week has been the disclosures about Derek Conway using taxpayers money to employ his family.    This practise is widespread and we will  publish a list of MPs who have family on their staff.   SEE BELOW   Some of this is legitimate and the staff work hard for their wages but some we know, as in Derek Conway's case do not.   Unfortunately this wide spread practise will only bring the House of Commons into disrepute.
Our electoral system stinks
Our main political Parties are undemocratic.
And now we know large numbers of our MPs are spending our money on their families.
The people will not put up with this state of affairs for much longer.   Parliament should be reformed.    Our electoral system should be reformed and our political parties should be reformed.   The writing is on the wall.   If there is no action watch the decline and fall of the Labour and Coinservative parties and the rise of new Parties which will command the respect of the electorate.
What a measly punishment was dealt out to Derek Conway.   He will still draw his salary.   If Parliament meant business he would have been kicked out.
The last Member of Parliament to be expelled from the House of Commons was the Labour MP Gary Allighan in 1947.   Not only an MP he was also a journalist and wrote an article for the World Press News "exposing" the means lobby correspondents were using to obtain leaks and inside information.    The technique was to ply MPs with drinks until they collapsed and leaked stories to journalists for rewards or favours.   A motion was tabled to the privileges committee to discharge Allighan for contempt. Allighan was accused of leaking stories himself. The Privileges Report, censuring the MP severely, said Allighan had aggravated his contempt by trying to cast suspicion on other MPs beside himself.    Does this remind you of Derek Conway?
On 30th October, with the Privileges Report on the table the Commons voted to expel Gary Allighan.   Allighan, was found to have lied to a committee when he had wrongly accused fellow MPs of accepting money for disclosing to the press the proceedings of private party meetings.   It turned out that this was precisely what he had done himself.
The Leader of the House recommended that he be reprimanded and suspended without pay, but an amendment for expulsion was successfully moved (by Quintin Hogg, later to be Lord Hailsham, twice).   There was also concern about outside bodies, such as trade unions, attempting to instruct an MP, so the House passed a resolution restating its traditional principles:
"It is inconsistent with the dignity of the House, with the duty of a member to his constituency, and with the maintenance of the privilege of freedom of speech, for any member of the House to enter into any contractual agreement with an outside body, controlling or limiting the member’s complete independence and freedom of action in Parliament or stipulating that he shall act in any way as the representative of such outside body in regard to any matters to be transacted in Parliament; the duty of a member being to his constituency and to the country as a whole, rather than to any particular section thereof."
The same treatment Garry Allighan got should be dished out to Derek Conway.    The House of Commons has now got only one choice.   It must adopt the same nepotism measures as in Germany and the United States.   A Member of Parliament may not employ a relative.   They have brought it upon themselves.
Update 5th February  In a statement by David Cameron, he said that more than 70 Conservative MPs employed member(s) of their family.   David Cameron's Leadership on this issue has been superb.    He has acted in a cool calm way, no doubt subjected to enormous pressures, but he cannot stop now.   He must go further.
Nice work if you can get it!
Is your MP on the list?   Let us know together with any information.   Reply to COPOV
Register of Interests of Members Secretaries and Research Assistants

Staff                                                                              Member of Parliament                    Party
Sally Ainger – part time £19,800pa                                                 Nick AINGERLAB
Lionel Beckett - £25,000 app                 Margaret BECKETT                                    LAB
Sally Clark - wife                                                                                              Hilary BENNLAB
Richard Burt                                                                                                    Lorely BURTLIB/DEM
Tennyson Butler                                                                                   Dawn BUTLERLAB
Elspeth Campbell                                                                     Sir Menzies CAMPBELLLIB/DEM
Daniel Chaytor  Sarah Chaytor                                                                    David CHAYTORLAB
Jonathan Clapham - unpaid       Yvonne Clapham                                Michael CLAPHAMLAB
Brenda Clelland                                                                             David CLELLANDLAB
Edward Clifton-Brown – unpaid                             Geoffrey CLIFTON-BROWNCON
Catherine Coffey                                                                                     Ann COFFEYLAB
Charlotte Cox                                                                                      Geoffrey COXCON
John Cryer - unpaid                                                                                     Ann CRYERLAB
Colin Davidson                                                                                         Ian DAVIDSONLAB
Neil Ennis                                                                                              Jeffrey ENNISLAB
Suzy Gale                                                                                                        Roger GALECON
Morvah George - unpaid                                                                     Andrew GEORGELIB/DEM
Adelaine Hain - £5,400pa part time                                                        Peter HAIN     `LAB
Carolyn Harris                                                                                            Tom HARRISLAB
David Haselhurst - unpaid    Angela Haselhurst                    Sir Alan HASELHURST                             CON
Christine Heald                                         Oliver HEALD                                             CON
Dawn Illsley - wife                                                                                              Eric ILLSLEYLAB
Lucy Kilfoyle                                                                                    Peter KILFOYLELAB
Karen Leadley - sister                                       Julie KIRKBRIDE                                             CON
Jill Liddell-GraingerPeter Liddell-Grainger - unpaid
Sophie Liddell-Grainger - unpaid                                                           
Oliver Luff - unpaid  Julia Luff                                                                                Peter LUFFCON
Harry Malins - unpaid  Katherine Malins – unpaid
Christina Marshall                                 David MARSHALL                                     LAB
Elsie Martlew                                                                                    Eric MARTLEWLAB
Anne McGuinness                                                                     Martin MCGUINNESSSINN FEIN
Tony McKenna                                                                      Rosemary MCKENNALAB
James McLoughlin - unpaid                                            Patrick MCLOUGHLIN  CON
Jonathan Mitchell                                                                        Austin MITCHELLLAB
Sonya Moss                                                                                           Malcolm MOSSCON
Oliver Mundell                                                                                     David MUNDELLCON
Fiona Owen                                                                                                     Albert OWENLAB
Ian Paisley                                                                                            Rev Ian PAISLEY  DEM UN
Rose Paterson - £29,636.64pa                                                     Owen PATERSONCON
Samuel Pope - unpaid                                                                                        Greg POPELAB
Joanne Sheridan                                                                                      Jim SHERIDANLAB
Xanthe Steen - £5,000pa part time                                                    Anthony STEENCON
Deborah Stoate                                                                          Dr Howard STOATELAB
Sally Tami                                                                                                   Mark TAMILAB
Philippa Taylor                                                                                         Dari TAYLORLAB
Jacqueline Vis                                                                                                  Rudi VISLAB
Robin Williams - son                                                                                  Alan WILLIAMSLAB
Raymond Williams - son                                                                           Betty WILLIAMSLAB
Camilla Young - daughter                                                                                     Sir George YOUNGCON
The following members are believed to employ a member of their family:
Staff                            Member of Parliament         Party
Cathy Austin - part time £8,000pa                                                         Ian AUSTINLAB
Caron Barron - wifeSheena Woolley - sister-in-law                                                                            Kevin BARRONLAB
Margaret Bell - £35,000pa                                                                            Sir Stuart BELLLAB
Lady Beresford                                                                         Sir Paul BERESFORDCON
Katherine - wifeJulian BRAZIERCON
Janet Breed                                                                                                  Colin BREEDLIB/DEM
Rosemary Bruce - £28,500pa                                                        Malcolm BRUCELIB/DEM
David Browning                                                                        Angela BROWNINGCON
Eve Burt                                                                                                           Alistair BURTCON
Sister in Law Alice Sheffield                                                        David CAMERONCON
Elspeth Campbell                                                                          Sir Menzies CAMPBELLLIB/DEM
Christine Chope                                                                                  Christopher CHOPECON
Julie Clark                                                                                                 Paul CLARKLAB
Colette Conway - £39,257.84pa  Derek CONWAYCON
Enid Crausby                                                                                   David CRAUSBYLAB
Debbie Davies                                                                                             Philip DAVIESCON
Chantal Davies                                                                                   Quentin DAVIESLAB
Doreen Davis                                                                                             David DAVISCON
Pat Dobbin                                                                                               Jim DOBBIN    LAB
Sister in lawStephen DORRELLCON
Phillippa DorriesNadine DORRIESCON
Philip Cole – husbandCaroline FLINTLAB
Mair FrancisHywel FRANCISLAB
Liz Gibson - £10,000paIan GIBSONLAB
Benny GilroyLinda GILROYLAB
Sue - wifeChris GRAYLINGCON
Lesley HallMike HALLLAB
Jean HamiltonDavid HAMILTONLAB
Sally Hammond - £27,500paStephen HAMMONDCON
Caroline Netherton – wifeDavid HEATHLIB/DEM
Pat Hopkins - £12,500paKelvin HOPKINSLAB
David KeenAlan KEENLAB
Janet LadymanStephen LADYMANLAB
Gail LaxtonBob LAXTONLAB
Mary LeighEdward LEIGHCON 
Teresa LevittTom LEVITTLAB
Ruth MackinlayAndrew MACKINLAYLAB
Vicky McCarthy-Fry – daughterSarah MCCARTHY-FRYLAB
Eleanor McAvoyTommy MCAVOYLAB
Fran MillerAndrew MILLERLAB
Graham Henderson - husbandAnne MILTONCON
Tony McKenna - unpaidRosemary MCKENNALAB
Alison MooreMichael MOORELIB/DEM 
Angela PenningMike PENNINGCON
Sondra PritchardMark PRITCHARDCON 
Nicola Page – partnerJohn REDWOODCON
Alison SandersAdrian SANDERSLIB/DEM
Val SmithAndrew SMITHLAB
Steve Wilson - husbandAngela SMITHLAB
Alison Soulsby - £20,000paSir Peter SOULSBYLAB
Janet StreeterTamsin Streeter - daughterGary STREETERCON
Liza WallaceBen WALLACECON 
Tiffiny WrightIain WRIGHT  LAB
Of the above                                                  LAB                      60
                                                                    CON                      36
Scandal of Party funding
The scandals surrounding Party funding and the Labour Party will not go away.   In a desperate attempt to hit back they have accused George Osborne of not declaring donations used by his private office on the Register of Interests, although they were declared to the Electoral Commission by the Conservative Party.   We understand that the monies were allocated to his office rather than being transferred to his control - a major difference.    Nothing wrong with that.   Should the Parliamentary Commissioner decide otherwise, this would raise a major problem for the Conservative Party.
In the Conservative Party Report and Accounts the very first words are as follow:
"The Conservative Central Office is the Office of the Leader of the Conservative Party".   If the decision goes against George Osborne does this mean that every donation to the Conservative Party that is declared to the Electoral commission has to be declared on the Register of Interests by David Cameron?   Donations over £600 have to be declared on the Register of Interests but only over  £1,000 to the Electoral Commission.   So what happens to those in between?   Interesting?    Of course, when we got a Constitution we were told we would now be "One Party".   The "Private" office would disappear, but the powers that be could not bring themselves round to it.   Is this going to be a case of "hoisted by your own petard"?   I wonder!
Maidstone Selection
We now hear that the Maidsone selection committee wanted the right to choose their candidate on merit.   They were threatened with putting the Association into suppport status ( control by Central Office), if they did so.   What a disgrace.   Incidentally we now hear that the chosen candidate -  Helen Grant was a member of the Labour Party in 2006.    Nothing wrong with that, unless she did not disclose it to the Maidstone Association.   Did she?
Re-Selection of MEPs
So bad was the turnout of members of the Regional College that members are being encouraged to attend the next meeting even if they did not attend the first meeting (see below).   What a farce!

Re-Selection of MEPs
We hear that so few people are turning up to the Regional College Selection meetings that the MEPs are worried about their own legitimacy, and so they should be.   This discredited farce of a selection process is turning out even worse that was predicted.   For Southern Region only approx. 130 turned up out of a potential 280 that could and should have been present.   Of those that did turn up between 20 and 50 voted against, so at best only 110 members decided that the sitting MEPs should proceed at the top of the Party List.   For the next stage even fewer will attend.   We hear that some of those attending yesterday have no intention of attending the next meeting on February 2nd.   If you did not attend yesterday you will not be allowed to attend on February 2nd, so numbers can only go down.   What a disgrace.   This is what happens when you distort democracy.   In addition Party membership continues to decline.   The contempt by the hierarchy shows no bounds.
Re-selection of MPS
Chairman of COPOV
At present there are 196 Tory MPs of which 20 are women and 2 ethnic minorities. To achieve 50% men/women of which 12% are ethnic minorities requires a huge change.   If we only rely on new candidates for seats that at the moment we do not hold, or for seats where the sitting male Tory MP retires, it will take several General Elections to achieve our objective of fair representation.   Should we therefore look at changing the procedure for the re-selection of sitting MPs?  We could ask all sitting MPs to be re-selected by say an open primary election!   I rejected this course of action for three reasons:
    1. I do not think the sitting MPs would accept the proposal.
    2. I believe that in most cases "grass roots" members would be reluctant to campaign against their MP and;
    3. Experienced MPs are a great asset to the Party.
Nevertheless I believe that the Executive of the 1922 Committee should be approached to take soundings with their members to confirm or otherwise that the proposal would be unacceptable. There is no doubt that if this was to be accepted it could prove to be the fastest method of bringing about change.
In an age when long-term employment has gone should we be prepared to accept an increased turnover of MPs? In today’s environment do MPs, once elected, consider themselves to have a job for life? (subject to the electorate) In many walks of life it is rare for a person to stay in the same occupation for a long period. Are MPs different? Should we encourage the re-adoption of MPs for each parliament by the whole Association as is done in Scotland?
Prior to the passing of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, every Conservative MP was re-adopted as a Conservative candidate at a General Meeting of his or her local Association. The proposal for adoption as the candidate was on the recommendation of the Executive Council of the Association. The Adoption Meeting was a critical point at which a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate became the Parliamentary Candidate. It was at this point that expenses had to be accounted for in the parliamentary election, which followed. This process involved all the grass roots members of the Constituency Association and generally worked quite well.
It is rare for a sitting MP to lose the confidence of his or her Association but occasionally it happens. In 1997 in my own constituency of Beaconsfield it was as a result of questioning at the Adoption Meeting which led to the MP – Tim Smith – to resign within a week of the meeting knowing that he had lost the confidence of the members.
Generally one of the drawbacks to the re-selection process in the Conservative Party at this time was at the Executive Council stage. In a number of Constituencies, when the Executive Council met the MP would turn up, give a speech, the adoption resolution would then be put by the Chairman for a vote on a show of hands. This was clearly wrong for it would take a brave person to vote against the MP with the MP watching. In 1997 the then National Union Executive Committee unanimously passed a resolution that the vote of the Executive should be by secret ballot. The Chairman of the 1922 Committee rejected this on the grounds that not having a secret ballot was part of the deal, which had been made for Party members to have a vote in the Leadership election.
After William Hague brought in the Party Constitution the secret ballot was inserted at a meeting of the National Convention and applies today.
With the passing of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 one of the major changes in the Act was the timing as to when expenses began to be incurred for a parliamentary election. The Adoption Meeting was no longer the critical point. The result of this was that in England, Wales and Northern Ireland many Constituency Associations no longer held Adoption Meetings(The Scottish Conservatives still retain them). Effectively, this means that the ordinary members of an Association are deprived of the opportunity to vote on the Adoption of the candidate. I believe this is wrong and the Party Constitution should be changed accordingly.
Of course in extreme circumstances a member can call for an Extraordinary Meeting of his Association and put a motion of "no confidence" in the MP, but this is often a lengthy and divisive process resulting in bitterness and factions within the Association.
Normally an Adoption Meeting is a great lift-off for an election campaign. It brings the members together and with the opportunity to vote on the adoption it gives them a stake in the outcome. By having an Adoption Meeting we would be giving back to the members some of the democracy which they have unfortunately lost in recent years. It is time to go for it. This is a minor but worthwhile change to the process. Perhaps, more important would be to change the attitude of mind of our MPs and encourage them to step down when they are no longer making a worthwhile contribution to Parliament. It also means that the membership of the Party has a serious job in holding the MPs to account for their actions or inaction. It should only be the exceptional MP that goes on after the age of seventy. It is the members job to remind them of this.

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

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

Nine finalists for Maidstone and The Weald

Maidstone and The Weald (projected Tory majority of nearly 12,000) have published the finalists for the race to succeed Ann Wddecombe:
  1. Stephen Barclay
  2. James Brokenshire
  3. Conor Burns
  4. Jamie Devlin
  5. Vicky Ford
  6. Helen Grant
  7. Jon Lord
  8. Julia Manning
  9. Kulveer Ranger
The two reserves have also been identified:
  • David Godfrey
  • Lynne Hack
22 candidates were interviewed of 98 applications considered.
The selection will be on 20th January.
Thanks for the above information to
Peter Hain
The saga of the donations to Peter Hain's Deputy Leadership campaign continues.   Apparently he has been asked to repay a £25,000 loan.    In addition, under Labour Party rules he has to give 15% of all donations to the Labour Party.   That is about another £30,000.   Will he have to raise more donations or loans to repay these amounts?   If so, will he have to declare them?   Or will he forget these as well?   If he resigned, which he should have done, he would have more time to get it right this time.
Dictatorship uses guillotine
In the period from 1946 to 1997 Governments guillotined sixty-seven Bills.   In the six years after 1997 this dictatorial Government guillotined no less than ninety-four Bills.   No wonder our legislation is so bad.   Whatever happened to Parliamentary scrutiny?
House of Cronies
By the time of Tony Bliar's resignation he had appointed 359 peers out of a total of 735 members of the House of Lords.   Of the 211 Labour Peers 153 were appointed by Tony Bliar.   Who says we live in a democracy?    It is time we had a wholly elected House of Lords and got rid of all these cronies.

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

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