December 20th Petition to 10 Downing St - From the Taxpayer's Alliance - Undemocratic European Parliament
December 13th Electoral Administration Act 2006 - UK Taxpayers - The Big Rip-off - Civil Liberties
December 6th Support Power2010 - Open Primaries? - A Modern Conservative Party
Holiday TV viewing and radio
Is it just me or is our television viewing and radio getting worse? Over the holiday period there was so little that I wanted to view or listen to that it came as a great surprise when on Saturday morning I tuned in to Radio 4 and heard one of the best programmes for a long time. Michael Crick did a half hour on Gladstone. It was brilliant. First of all he spoke to Gladstone's great grandson and then there was a studio discussion between Lord David Steel, Lord Adonis and David Willetts. How refreshing it was to hear two historians (Adonis and Willetts) putting current events into a historical context with the help of a former Leader of the Liberal Party. I do hope that Michael Crick will do more programmes of a similar style. Well done.
An English Parliament
When will our politicians stop treating England like a colony? It is ironic that England was one of the first nations to invent parliamentary democracy but will be one of the last to benefit from it. You do not have to be English or a Nationalist to recognise the need for an English Parliament. All you need to be is a democrat. Just one small example. When Parliament voted on the decision as to whether to have a third runway at Heathrow Airport a majority of 19 English MPs voted against it, but the approval went through because 67 Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland MPs voted in favour.
The compliments of the Season to everyone and let us hope that in 2010 we will make progress on the road to democracy.
Petition to 10 Downing St.
At last 10 Downing St. have agreed the following petition. Do please sign it by clicking on the link below. How can we live in a democracy if the political parties which choose the candidates for parliament are undemocratic?
The petition reads:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to introduce
legislation so that the Electoral Commission cannot register a
political party unless the party has a democratic constitution
which can be changed by a majority of its members on the basis
of one member one vote.
Political parties are part of the democratic process in the
United Kingdom. Their role is recognised by parliament. In
the current financial year nearly £7 million of public money –
known as “Short” money – has been paid to political parties.
It is wholly unacceptable that public money should be paid to
undemocratic parties. This money is supposed to enhance our
democracy – it does no such thing. In some cases, all it is
doing is perpetuating the power of oligarchies. It is also
wrong that undemocratic organisations are determining who shall
be our parliamentary candidates and in so doing who shall sit
in the House of Commons and form the government of this
country. The Electoral Commission is already involved with
political parties by setting the rules for donations to the
parties and enforcing the rules on donations. They should be
involved in ensuring that the parties are democratic. Once we
had rotten boroughs, now we have a rotten parliament. This
proposal will change that.
From the Taxpayer's Alliance
The Electoral Administration Act 2006
In a little publicised statement issued this week it was disclosed that inadvertently during the passage of the above Act citizens of the Irish Republic and Commonwealth citizens were excluded from the House of Lords. This effected The Archbishop of York, Baroness Trixie Gardner (Australian), Baroness O'Cathain (Irish) and others. Isn't it extraordinary that citizens that have no allegiance to the United Kingdom should be in our legislature passing laws that effect the United Kingdom? It would appear that these people should not have been in the House of Lords since the 2006 Act was passed. Did they effect any votes taken? Did they speak on any controversial issues and effect the votes taken? I think we should be told. No doubt this will all be brushed under the carpet and an enabling Bill passed to rectify the matter. No wonder our democracy is in a mess.
David Cameron has today stated that the Conservatives will pass legislation to ensure that only UK taxpayers are members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. He is quite right to do this, but why does he not go further and say that only UK citizens can be members of parliament, indeed go further still and say that only UK citizens can vote in our parliamentary elections. There are about 400,000 citizens of the Irish Republic resident in the United Kingdom who vote in our parliamentary elections. They can clearly effect the results because they tend to be concentrated in a few areas such as Glasgow, Liverpool and Kilburn in London. It is clearly wrong that Irish citizens whose loyalty is to a foreign power are determining the composition of our legislature. They have no loyalty to the Queen or the country. As far as the Commonwealth citizens are concerned they may, but not all, have loyalty to the Queen but no loyalty to the country. Last week Rwanda joined the Commonwealth. Overnight potentially large numbers of people have become eligible if they are in the UK to vote in our elections. This cannot be right and should be changed.
The Big Rip-off
Britain's richest man gets £1 billion from ETS carbon permits. Lakshmi Mittal, Britain 's richest man, stands to benefit from a £1 billion windfall from the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme. His steel business ArcelorMittal, where he is Chairman and Chief Executive, will make the gain on 'carbon credits'. The scheme allocates permits to emit CO2 up to a specified cap, and beyond this businesses must buy extra permits. However, ArcelorMittal have been allocated more than it needs, allowing it to sell the surplus for a profit. (Sunday Times, 6 December)
Listen to the debate on civil liberties organised by the Hansard Society
The following motion passed by COPOV was submitted to power2010 and accepted. Please give it your support by visiting the power2010 web site.
"No political Party should be registered with the electoral Commission unless it has a democratic constitution which can be changed by a majority of its members on the basis of one member one vote".
No. 10 Downing St. rejected the motion on the basis that it was party political. How is it party political? It would apply to all parties, after all we have regulations about the finances of political parties. I have asked No. 10 to explain. No answer has been forthcoming.
The following article was published this week on the openupnow website:
The following article was published on the conservativehome web site
Tony Devenish: The party is modernising, but some continuity - and respect for a plurality of views - is as important as change
Whilst I hesitate to repeat the Thatcher Cabinet Minister John Biffen’s career-limiting 1987 plea for ‘consolidation’, the last four years have shown that the Conservative Party is modernising but - unlike New Labour's abandonment of Clause IV and so on - is holding to timeless Conservative themes.
There is no need in our party for a so-called Clause IV moment. Despite the occasional ‘silly season’ style tabloid headlines, few can argue with the view that the party is both offering constructive solutions to the hole Gordon Brown has dug for UK Plc - as well as selecting parliamentary candidates who increasingly mirror contemporary British society to argue the case for sensible modernisation.
The Conservative Party has indeed changed considerably over the last four years, as I witnessed as an MEP candidate who visited seventy constituencies over fifteen months. However, whilst it is to be welcomed that ‘we are all modernisers now’, we do need to recognise and respect a plurality of views. And those views include those of people who perhaps live outside the M25, do not work (or aspire to work) full-time in politics or the media (parodied so brutally but realistically in The Thick of It), and yes, may well be conservative with a small ‘c’ and (like me) north of forty years of age.
Over the last four years David Cameron has rightly (on the whole) adjusted our party’s position on a number of issues and for those of us who remember the despair of numerous by-elections (not to mention 1997, 2001 and 2005) it was certainly needed.
However, as John Stafford wrote so eloquently in a Platform piece in August, party membership does not (in my view) need to have fallen by twenty five percent under David Cameron’s leadership. We all need the eyes and ears of grassroots members; we all need to do more to engage actively with the wider public and to listen not just to those who ‘Google’.
I was taught that in leadership you are judged not by what you say, but by your actions. New Labour and control freaks from Mandelson to Gordon Brown have failed to listen or represent the views of their own party, their natural supporters or the wider country.
I hope in the run-up to the General Election David Cameron will continue to modernise by engaging actively with his parliamentary and voluntary party as well as the country as a whole. Then we can seek as a Conservative team to persuade the British public that the Thick of It culture is the story of Brown’s Britain and that May 2010 can mark the beginning of a new chapter where a plurality of views is acceptable in our representative democracy.
November 29th Today's Universities - Open Europe - Labour's damage to Britain - Homer Simpson & Global Warming
November 22nd Moment of the Week - Eric the Dictator - Selection of Parliamentary Candidates - Downing St. Petition
November 15th "A Very British Revolution" - Choose the President of the European Council - South West Norfolk - Eastern Daily Press
November 8th European Union - They have got away with it - Letter to the Government - The English penny - Bully Boy tactics
November 1st Selection of Parliamentary Candidates - South Norfolk Selection - English
From a letter by Chris Payne to The Independent 25 November
The motivation of the modern university, with precious few exceptions, has moved from scholarly excellence to the mass production of the end-product, a unversity degree. Lip-service is paid to quality, but no one believes anything other than that standards are going inexorably down and have been for years.
In this mad scramble for market share, demand is systematically managed - "If you haven't got a degree, you won't get a job" - while academic staff, many of whom entered the profession out of a sense of scholarly vocation, find themselves demoralised by low salaries, poor promotion prospects and falling status. Promotions are never given for academic success or teaching effectiveness. Rather they are awarded to the bureaucrats, the report writers, the committee attenders and above all to those who recruit the most students.
So expeditions are sent out all over the world to try to con students to pay through the nose to sign up for the exciting new degree course in Rock Music Studies. It is little wonder that many universities have become little more than remedial A-level establishments. It is little wonder that drop-out rates are high.
As EU Foreign Minister Cathy Ashton will be in charge of what current EU foreign policy spokesman Javier Solana has described as the "biggest diplomatic service in the world" - a new External Action Service created by the Lisbon Treaty. According to reports the service will start with 5,000 staff based in delegations in 130 countries, and is expected to grow rapidly. During a speech in Paris Javier Solana said the new service will cost taxpayers a staggering £45 billion between now and 2013. By contrast, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office has an annual budget of £2 billion -- which the Treasury hopes to cut by 20% over the next two years. (Sunday Times Sunday Express 22 November)
Howard Flight: It is time we talked about Labour's damage to Britain
Quite simply, I am increasingly struck at how those who do not agree with the mantra of the politically correct elite controlling Britain and much of the media are today being silenced and shut out from the mainstream. I find, moreover, that when I raise these issues with perfectly normal, respectable and responsible citizens, that they agree with me - but feel silenced, substantially for fear of getting a black mark which might damage their careers (and certainly their eligibility to participate in any Government quangos!)
I will give some examples, by no means exhaustive.
Why the British are essentially hostile to the EU and the project to create a United States of Europe is, on the one hand, because they resent being bullied and not given a say; and on the other hand because the EU structure is inherently undemocratic and implicitly corrupt. Moreover, the massive body of legislation from the EU is introduced to Britain without any Parliamentary votes – let alone referendums – constitutionally, using the ancient powers of the royal Prerogative.
The Barons forced Magna Carta on King John and we fought a civil war to secure the principle that nothing should be law of the land without being enacted by both Houses of Parliament – by-passed and ignored with regard to the never ending flow of tedious and often economically damaging legislation coming from the EU. Britain inherited the ancient Anglo-Saxon concept of power ascending from the people. Much of Continental Europe inherited the Roman tradition of descending power – power flowing down from above, whether cast in the form of Roman Emperors or the Divine Right of Kings. Whether pro or agin the proposition that one day Europe might come together as the United States of Europe, British citizens want their say.
At a much more down to earth level, if you want to change your bank, this now requires a nightmare of bureaucracy and obligations to submit utility bills and a legally certified passport copy when 99.99% of British citizens manifestly have no involvement in financing terror or drug money laundering. But we have unaccountable international organisations – the IMF, FATF and others – forcing on our banks, our stock brokers, our accountants, our lawyers and everyone else that might have something to do with our money these tedious and anti-competitive requirements. If any jurisdiction refuses to require all of this, they are black-listed as a leper allegedly encouraging terrorism and drug finance. Inevitably, the criminals find ways round these requirements, but our financial institutions are burdened with enormous costs and our citizens with tedious and time consuming hassle.
Turning to immigration, there is resentment particularly amongst the remnants of Labour’s old white working class supporters and a major and costly drain on our health service and education system, as the result of excessive immigration. Moreover, the dogma of seeking to create a “multi-cultural society” has been a terrible mistake. In the past, America handled major immigration successfully – essentially by requiring everyone to have a common US education and to become culturally and politically loyal Americans. But anyone who makes such common sense points runs the risk of being branded a racist - which is ironic, since they include many long settled in this country whose families originally came from the West Indies and the Sub-Continent of India.
Everyone knows that public spending under Labour has got wildly out of control, nearly doubling in cash terms but achieving remarkably little as regards improved output. Much of the money has gone into large pay increases for those working in the public sector, largely as the result of the political power of the public sector trade unions. Much of the rest has gone in major, disguised increases in welfare spending. The real welfare spending figure is in excess of £200 billion per annum if tax credits (netted off tax receipts) having benefit and welfare spending concealed within Scottish and Welsh expenditure are included. £60 billion is accounted for by state pensions – which are arguably inadequate. But the balance has risen to circa £150 billion per annum before allowing for the impact of the increase in unemployment resulting from the recession.
This has served to create welfare dependent communities; part of the increased spending has gone to subsidize wages – an unwise economic policy, as we learnt when the same thing happened in the 1820s; and some is being exploited by couples who are not married and thus, potentially, eligible for and claiming, the substantial single parent benefits. The economic truth is that the UK can no longer afford expenditure on this scale; but does any politician, other than Frank Field, have the courage to say this?
In more populist territories, did British citizens ever give their consent to the excessive proliferation of speeding cameras on our roads? Everyone will agree with the proposition that excess speeding should be discouraged as it can cause unnecessary deaths, but what we have ended up with is a massive stealth tax.
Meanwhile even I, who has smoked for nearly 50 years (although still working 70 hours a week), have to agree that smoking is clearly not good for you. But rather than achieving a reasonable compromise in this territory, we now see thousands of people outside pubs drinking and smoking in the road; and private institutions, such as working men’s clubs, closing down as no smoking facilities are permitted. Here again, ironically, the elitist Labour Party is bullying its historic grassroot supporters.
My wife and I are blessed with four wonderful children who are sensible, characterful and responsible. When they were naughty children we had no hesitation in smacking them – as I believe most parents would agree. In trying to bring up responsible citizens, parents now run the risk, if they use common sense, of being prosecuted.
When I was at school, there were lots of school exchanges to France and Germany as a result of which we not only managed to speak the languages reasonably, but also made friends for life. Particularly in the state sector, school exchanges have now been virtually abandoned because of the cost and hassle in checking that the host French and German parents are not paedophiles – inherently unlikely where they are representatives of hospitable, family homes.
Finally, on matters constitutional, it is outrageous that the Barnett formula continues to provide nearly twice as much public spending for citizens of Scotland as for citizens of England, where it was supposed to equalise expenditure over the long term. It is also wrong now that Scotland has its own Parliament responsible for virtually all domestic matters, Scottish MPs still vote on domestic matters relevant to England. If the Scottish people want independence - on which there should be a referendum – it should be granted to them.
I could go on, but have probably already condemned myself for saying what most people think.
I am reminded of the old adage: “Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad”. The time has come for British citizens to assert their rights to free speech and to rebel against the tyranny of the politically correct. I very much hope the Conservative Party – and Boris Johnson in particular – will give a lead here.
Homer Simpson and Global Warming
Moment of the Week
At the Conservative Women's Conference this week Eric Pickles was interviewed by Iain Dale. Inevitably, the issue of All Women Short Lists was raised. Whereupon Iain Dale said "Lets take a vote. All those in favour of All Women Short Lists". A couple of dozen hands went up. "Those against?" A sea of hands.
Eric the Dictator
Click on the link below:
Selection of Parliamentary Candidates
There are an increasing number of complaints about the way in which Constituency Associations are being treated during the selection of candidates. Orpington, Beckenham, Dudley North, Macclesfield, Penrith, Esher. The list goes on. What the Party does not realise is that the activists in the Conservative Party now consist mainly of local Councillors and their families. By preventing local candidates even being interviewed, these are the very people the Party is insulting. They will walk away. As sure as eggs are eggs, one day soon, the Party will want the local activists to help. The way we are going, when that day comes they will not be there. What is frightening is how few members many Constituency Associations now have. Not surprising when the question is asked: What is the point of being a member of the Conservative Party? The Labour Party is going the same way.
Downing St Petition.
I submitted the following petition to the No. 10 Downing Street web site:
"No political Party should be registered with the electoral Commission unless it has a democratic constitution which can be changed by a majority of its members on the basis of one member one vote". No. 10 rejected it on the basis that it was party political. How is it party political? It would apply to all parties, after all we have regulations about the finances of political parties. I have asked No. 10 to explain. No answer has been forthcoming. That says it all.
"A Very British Revolution"
by Martin Bell
To a politician, a luxury is a plasma TV; an emergency is a falling-out with the constituency association; and a fallen comrade is an MP of the same party who, having been exposed as a flipper and swindler, has finally been forced into retirement.
To a soldier, a luxury is a bucket of water; an emergency is an all-arms Taliban assault on a forward operating base; and a fallen comrade is a friend who has fought alongside him and saved his life, and whose remains he is trying to extract from the wreck of a blown-up armoured patrol vehicle.
|Choose the President of the European Council |
|The 27 Heads of State and Government of the European Union will appoint the President of the European Council for the first time on 19th November. |
Given the interest raised by this appointment we are providing you with the opportunity to choose between the personalities whose names are being put forward for this position, since we are convinced that your opinion will count. Click on the image below:
Tomorrow,16th November,the South West Norfolk Conservative Constituency Association is holding a Special General Meeting to decide whether to endorse Liz Truss as their Parliamentary Candidate. The importance of this meeting is that the members are asserting their democratic rights. Whatever the outcome of the meeting this is a landmark case and should be followed by other constituency associations where Central Office has interfered. It is particularly unfortunate that David Cameron has interfered in the process and must be regretted. It would have been unthinkable for any previous Leader to have interfered in this way. Many other Constituencies are finding the interference by Central Office intolerable. They should join the Campaign for Conservative Democracy and join the fight for a democratic Conservative Party.
Eastern Daily Press:
New twist in Truss scandal
Amid signs of a backlash after the U-turn performed by local Conservative chairman David Hills, Sir Jeremy Bagge, the former high sheriff of Norfolk, is to propose that Ms Truss be dropped at a showdown meeting of members on Monday.
The importance to Mr Cameron of the outcome of the meeting was underlined when Sir Jeremy revealed that he had a telephone conversation with him in which the Tory leader spelt out why he and his lieutenants were fighting hard to save Ms Truss.
“He said that if we really stirred things up in SW Norfolk, it could have a ripple effect across the country,” said Sir Jeremy.
Mr Cameron is acutely aware that several other Tory associations are deeply unhappy about candidate selection rules that seem to favour his “A-list” candidates, and that they are keeping a very close eye on the battle in SW Norfolk. He also knows that disputes could escalate in the new year when he will impose “by-election rules” for the selection of candidates that will involve the imposition of women-only shortlists in some seats that the Tories are expected to win in the general election.
Rebellion is already spreading from SW Norfolk into Suffolk. Some Tories in the constituency of Central Suffolk and North Ipswich are livid after being presented with a candidate shortlist of six people that doesn't include anyone from the county. There are accusations there that Mr Cameron is trying to ease one of his favourites into the “safe” seat (where retiring MP Sir Michael Lord had a majority of almost 8,000 in the last general election).
An East Anglian Tory MP said last night that he felt it was “too close to call” in SW Norfolk, and that “this could go either way”.
Undaunted by his discussion with Mr Cameron - which took place on the initiative of the Conservative leader - Sir Jeremy told the EDP: “I am sure Ms Truss is a very able woman. But at the Monday meeting I shall be moving, on a point of principle, that we do not endorse her. I do not know how much support I will get, because people can be weak in this sort of situation. But I am not standing for it.”
Sir Jeremy - 7th baronet, friend of the Royal Family and owner of the 1,200-acre Stradsett Estate, near Downham Market - said that he regretted that local Tory association chairman David Hills had been “cornered” into calling for support for Ms Truss this week after making it clear to members of the executive at an earlier stage of the political drama that he felt let down by her and wanted her deselected. His earlier statements - following revelations about her affair with a Tory MP - were sent by email from a cruise ship off Hong Kong.
Sir Jeremy's end of the conversation with Mr Cameron took place, bizarrely, from a vandalised public telephone box in Stradsett village after his mobile phone had broken. It was on the evening of November 5, and they spoke against a background of firework noises that could not compete with the potentially explosive subject of their discussion. By the time it had finished, Sir Jeremy had put £8 in the box.
Mr Cameron sought to speak to him after Sir Jeremy had publicly stated that “I feel totally betrayed by Conservative Central Office” and that “the kindest thing would be to allow her [Ms Truss] to move on”.
In a further indication of how much is at stake for Mr Cameron in SW Norfolk, the EDP has also been informed that he was overheard “almost screaming” in a telephone conversation with Baroness Shephard. She has welcomed Mr Hills' statement of backing for Ms Truss.
A leading figure in the “Turnip Taliban” opposition to Ms Truss said yesterday that its resistance was holding up despite Mr Hills' U-turn. “The people I am talking to are still holding solid,” he said.
Mr Hills has failed to respond to an EDP request to elaborate on his official statement of support for Ms Truss and to explain his volte-face.
Ms Truss's future will be determined by a secret ballot after she has spoken at Monday's meeting. Just under 100 people attended her original selection meeting on October 24.
This week David Cameron abandoned his promise to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. He promised that any future transfer of powers will be subjected to a referendum. (Why should we believe him this time?). He specifically ruled out a referendum on any treaty for the accession of a new member state, but in this situation power is transferred to the European Union. It stands to reason that if now you have 1/27th, when a new state joins you have 1/28th. If a vote is taken on population as under Lisbon our proportion inevitably goes down. The other thing that Cameron has forgotten is that within the Lisbon Treaty there is a self amending clause which means that the Treaty can be altered without having to be ratified by all the
member countries so a new Treaty is not required. In other words, Cameron's promise is not worth the paper it is written on. Democracy has taken another battering.
They have got away with it.
Even if the Kelly proposals are implemented in full (and already there are attempts to water them down) the reality is that not a single MP has been expelled from the House of Commons, not a single MP has been prosecuted for fraud, wives can still be employed for another five years, mortgage interest can still be claimed for another five years, those retiring at the next General Election will still pick up £65,000 pay off and in the mean time they are all carrying on picking up their salaries and expenses. The reality is that they have got away with it. Just to make matters worse, a member of the establishment has been put in charge of the so called Independent Review Body in charge of expenses and he has stated that he might alter the rules in favour of MPs. Professor Ian Kennedy is clearly not fit for purpose and should resign. Let us have someone genuinely independent who will take a tough line. Once again parliament has demonstrated that it is rotten to the core. The only solution now is to kick the lot out and have a new constitution which is fair and democratic. If only?
Letter to the Government.
Secretary of State.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
17 Smith Square
16 July 2009
Dear Secretary of State,
My friend, who is in farming at the moment, recently received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for
not rearing pigs.. I would now like to join the "not rearing pigs" business.
In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I
want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the EU under the
Common Agricultural Policy.
I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear
porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there
too many people already not rearing these?
As I see it, the hardest part of this programme will be keeping an accurate record of how many pigs I haven't reared.
Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?
My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever
made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is - until this year, when he received a cheque for not rearing any.
If I get £3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100? I plan to operate on a small scale at
first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year. As I
become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared
in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department. Incidentally, I wonder if I would
be eligible to receive tradable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing harmful and polluting methane gases?
Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay
farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don't rear?
I am also considering the "not milking cows" business, so please send any information you have on that too. Please
could you also include the current DEFRA advice on set aside fields? Can this be done on an e-commerce basis with
virtual fields (of which I seem to have several thousand hectares)?
In view of the above you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will therefore qualify for unemployment
benefits. I shall of course be voting for your party at the next general election.
The Eastern Daily press reports:
The SW Norfolk Tories have been threatened with having a parliamentary candidate imposed on them if they deselect Elizabeth Truss and then carry on defying David Cameron.
But the warning seems to have stiffened the resolve of the rebels. And further protests against the process that led to Ms Truss's selection, and interference by the party's national leadership, were led yesterday by Sir Jeremy Bagge, a former high sheriff of Norfolk.
"I feel totally betrayed by Conservative Central Office," he said. And he expressed outrage that the local association had been told that its candidate selection could be taken completely out of its hands if it throws out Ms Truss and then refuses to choose a candidate wanted by Mr Cameron.
"If they suspend the association, we can dissociate from the Conservative Party and choose an independent," he said.
"We will not be dictated to."
Sir Jeremy is a member of the association's executive, which was warned at a meeting on Tuesday that if Ms Truss were deselected, the local party would be made to choose from a shortlist of three candidates selected by Conservative HQ, and that it was probable all of them would be women.
If they then refused to select one of these, a candidate would be forced on them, they were also told.
The warning came from Sir Graham Bright, who retired on Saturday as the chairman of the eastern region Conservatives. And his message was delivered to the executive after he had spoken to Mr Cameron earlier that day.
Despite Sir Graham's words, the executive voted by 19-14 to refer Ms Truss's candidature back to a special general meeting to be held on November 16. The executive meeting had been speedily convened after the association had been rocked by a media disclosure, only a few hours after choosing her, that Ms Truss had had an affair with the Conservative MP Mark Field.
The warning delivered by Sir Graham infuriated Sir Jeremy, who voted for Ms Truss at the selection meeting on October 24, but now feels "the kindest thing would be to allow her to move on" and seek selection in another seat.
Selection of parliamentary Candidates
We know that 87% of conservative Party members oppose All Women Short Lists. In a public opinion poll this week it showed that 58% of the public oppose them with only 23% in favour. Why oh Why does Cameron keep pursuing this unpopular agenda? You can see the latest spat on this by clicking on http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/newsnight for Tuesday 27th October. The item is 24 minutes in.
South Norfolk Selection
At a Special General Meeting of the South Norfolk Constituency Association held last week Elizabeth Truss was chosen as the Conservative Parliamentary candidate. After the meeting a number of members of the Association discovered that several years ago she had an affair with a married Conservative MP. They were unhappy about this and asked for a meeting of the Association's Executive Committee. The Executive decided that there should be a full meeting of the Association to reconsider their decision to select Elizabeth as the candidate. Contrary to what some bloggers might feel there is nothing wrong with that. It is no good saying that you are in favour of democracy and allowing Constituency Associations to choose their parliamentary candidates and then complain about the decisons that are reached. It is also no good calling the members of the Association "Neanderthal" as Iain Dale has done.
This problem would probably have been avoided if the Constituency had been allowed to select its parliamentary candidate in the normal way instead of being forced by Central Office to do it under the new rules. Under these rules only six members of the Association including the Chairman and the two Deputy Chairmen are involved in the sift of candidates with the Party Chairman having a veto on any candidate and being able to effectively impose candidates. The Executive's only role is to determine how many candidates go forward to a General Meeting. Prior to the new rules many more people would have been involved in the selection process over a longer period giving more time for facts about the candidates to be disclosed. It is virtually certain that in these circumstances Elizabeth Truss's affair would have been known by all those attending the General Meeting. It is because the selection process has been changed that we have ended up in this sorry mess. This is not the fault of the South Norfolk Constituency Association but it is the fault of the Politburo now running the Conservative Party. Once you start distorting democracy you destroy it.
There is a growing number of constituencies that are starting to rebel at the control of Central Office. This does not augur well for the future of the Conservative Party. If this control freakery is not stopped David Cameron will find that he is leading a Party with no members. Then what will he do?
The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than the other possibility, German.
By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing 'th' with 'z' and 'w' with 'v'.
During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary 'o' kan be dropd from vords kontaining 'ou' and after ziz fifz yer, vevil hav a reil sensibl riten styl.
Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kumtru.
Und efter ze fifz yer,ve vil al be speking German like zeyvunted in ze forstplas.
If zis mad you smil, pleas pas on to oza pepl.
October 18th Ministerial Expansion - Democratic Parties - Discrimination
October 11th Give Us Our Conference Back - Fringe Meeting Press Release
October 4th Bureaucracy Builds
All Women Short Lists
This week David Cameron made a serious mistake. In spite of 87% of Tory members being opposed to All Women Short lists Cameron is about to impose them on Constituency Associations. No wonder the constituencies are fighting back. There is now a suggestion that the old National Union of Conservative Associations should be revived. The name still exists so it would not be too difficult to resurrect it. For too long the voluntary party has been treated with contempt by the leadership. I understand that a fighting fund of £15,000 is being created to help constituencies oppose this diktat from Central Office. The Party talks about being in favour of localism and devolving power to the lowest level, yet when comes to the Conservative Party the exact opposite is done. Can you trust the hierarchy when it practises such hypocrisy?
Where are the representatives of the voluntary party on the Party Board? We haven't heard a squeak from them. They should either speak up or hang their heads in shame. Maybe the smell of ermine is preventing them from speaking up for the members that put them there in the first place!
Membership is falling, the ordinary members are demoralised and soon we will have an election to fight. Dave should not be so sure that we will win that he can ignore the views of the members. The Conservative Party is the membership. Destroy that and all you have is a cosy little oligarchy seeking power. Sooner or later the electorate will rumble them.
On Saturday 31st October COPOV has a forum meeting (for details see Notice Board) at which the Selection of Parliamentary Candidates is on the agenda. Do come and join in the debate as to what we, the ordinary members should do now.
BBC PM programme
To listen click on http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00n7ml8/b00n7mkf/PM_20_10_2009/ the interview is 46 minutes into the programme.
The Times 21 October
"John Strafford, of the grassroots group Campaign for Conservative Democracy, said that Tory members were fed up with interference from the centre and warned that further moves to control candidate selection marked the death of democracy".
The Daily Mail 21 October
"John Strafford, of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, called Mr Cameron's announcement ' disgraceful'. He predicted it would lead to an exodus of activists.
Tory commentator Iain Dale, a candidate at the last election described the move as ' fundamentally unconservative'. He asked: 'where it will all lead? All-black
shortlists? All-gay shortlists? All-disabled shortlists? All-Muslim shortlists? Not in my name."
The Independent 21 October
Prior to 1997 there were 110 salaried Government Ministers. Today there are 123 Ministers plus 75 Ministers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. You would have thought that with legislation being devolved there would be fewer Ministers at Westminster. Does it matter? The extra number of Ministers at Westminster are unpaid. Unfortunately it does not stop there. Each Minister gets three secretaries, a press officer, a chauffeur driven car and costs the taxpayer half a million pounds per annum. Time for a few cuts I say!
The Equal Rights Commission took the BNP to court on the grounds that their constitution was racially biased. They succeeded in getting the BNP to agree to change its constitution. The Equal Rights Commission were correct to press for this change, but why do they not kick up a fuss about the sexual prejudice in the Labour and the Conservative Parties. The Labour Party has women only short lists when choosing its parliamentary candidates. The Conservative Party insists on 50% women on its short lists, in spite of the fact that women comprise only one third of the total candidates. Of course the political parties have been exempted from the sex discrimination clauses in the legislation, so positive discrimination is alright in our political correct society. Isn't it time we insisted on political parties having democratic constitutions?
At a packed out fringe meeting organised by the Conservative Action for Electoral Reform I put the following proposal to the meeting:
In both the two main parties a small number of people determine who shall be a parliamentary candidate and in so doing who shall sit in the House of Commons and form the government of this country. In the case of the Conservative Party this is effectively the Party Chairman. Is this the way in which dictatorships are created without the need for bloody revolution?
Once we had rotten boroughs, now we have a rotten parliament.
This must be changed and my proposal will do just that".
Give Us Our Conference Back
Of all the people attending the Conservative Conference only 25% were party members. The other 75% were lobbyists, businessmen, media, exhibition organisers etc. This was the first conference I have been to where on purchasing a cup of coffee you are asked whether you want a receipt. Not surprising when 75% are attending on expenses. Not surprising, that everything is so expensive. The end result is that fewer and fewer party members are going. Even the fringe has been taken over. Lobbyists attend the fringe meeting to push their causes, thus distorting the meetings. At a meeting on Europe a hostile question to an MEP was put by an employee of the European Commission.
So when I received an email asking me to attend a special meeting with the Party Chairman to discuss the future of Conservative Conferences I immediately cancelled going to a particularly good fringe meeting with Dominic Grieve, in order to attend. We were given Lancashire hotpot by the Commercial Director of Central Office and then told that Eric Pickles could not attend the meeting. There would be no discussion, no debate, but would we put any suggestions on post it notes and stick them on the wall. I knew where I wanted to stick them. Is it any wonder that Party membership and attendance at Conference is in decline when members are treated with such utter contempt by the hierarchy. To rub salt into the wound I was later told that the reason for Eric Pickles non attendance was because he had to take Samantha Cameron shopping. You couldn't make it up if you tried!
Speaking about the Death of Democracy, one of the issues raised by John Strafford was the selection of parliamentary candidates. He reveals that under the new rules brought in by the Party Board in July 2009 the selection of Conservative Party candidates has been changed. “Now the Party Chairman will decide whether a local Association should select its candidate by a Special General Meeting or by an Open Primary. For each constituency a sifting meeting will be held at a place designated by the Party Chairman at which the Approved List of candidates will be reduced to six names, 50% of whom will be women. At this meeting there will be six representatives of the local association. The Party Chairman will have a veto on the six names to go forward to the next stage.”
“The real impact of this is that the Party Chairman will determine the Conservatives candidates and consequently the Conservative Party composition in the House of Commons for a generation. The Labour Party looks as though it is going down a similar route. Over half the current members of the Cabinet were parachuted into their seats by the Labour Party hierarchy. So a tiny number of people will determine who sits in the House of Commons and effectively form the government of this country. Is this the way dictatorships are created without the need for bloody revolution?”
John Strafford concluded by saying “There is much talk about electoral reform but when will the people “wake up and smell the coffee”? If our two main political parties are wholly undemocratic organisations, electoral reform is meaningless. Once we had rotten boroughs, now we have rotten parliaments”.
CONTACT DETAILS: JOHN STRAFFORD – Mobile 07956 352022
Bureaucracy BuildsEU plans new £280m building for EU President and Foreign Minister. The EU is planning a new building to house the offices of the new EU President, EU Foreign Minister and European diplomatic service, which will be created if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified. It is set to cost EU taxpayers £280 million.
September 20th Open Europe - Wycombe Parliamentary Candidate Selection - Bedford Mayor Selection.
September 13th Party Constitution - Party Conference - Level Playing Field?
September 6th Bankers Bonuses - Toryism, Nothing Changes - Tory Membership from conservativehome.
Events at the Party Conference
Do come to the following events;
Sunday 4th October 3.15pm
Vote for Change - Speakers: Dan Hannan MEP, John Strafford, Chairman-Martin Bell
Friends Meeting House, Mount St. Manchester, M2 5NSTuesday 6th October 4.30pm
COPOV meeting - "Death of Democracy", John Strafford, Freedom Zone, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Tuesday 6th October 5.45pm
"Our Fight for Democracy " book signing John Strafford, Freedom Zone, Bridgwater Hall, Manchester
Wednesday 7th October 12.30pm
Democracy Dragons Den Michael White, Jonathan Isaby, Eleanor Laing MP, John Strafford. Main Conference Centre, Exchange Room 2. Conservative Action for Electoral Reform..
In a desperate attempt to involve the Party members the National Convention is to have three motions for debate. They are:
1) Convention believes that membership recruitment and retention is the responsibility of local associations, this convention calls on areas, regions and CCHQ to support associations to get more people involved in our party.
2) Convention believes we need a new Training initiative to help volunteers be even more effective.
3) Convention believes that the Policy Forum needs revitalising and has an important role to play.
This is pathetic. This is not debate. This is froth, pure and simple - an opportunity for the hierarchy to spout meaningless phrases. Will they never learn?
To add insult to injury we are informed that "We will take up to five contributions of 2 minutes for each motion", and then asks anybody who wishes to contribute to email CCHQ. So each motion will have ten minutes of froth and even those contributing to the froth will be determined by the hierarchy. Is it any wonder that party membership is declining. In a recent article Vernon Bogdanor estimated it at 145,000.
The best thing that could happen to the National Convention is to put it out of its misery and shoot it!
Our Fight for Democracy - The United Kingdom and the European Union
The Bruges Group have published the above pamphlet by John Strafford. To view it click on Bruges Group
This study also looks at how the European elites are in danger of creating a profound moral and institutional crisis in Europe – a crisis of democracy. Those in the Brussels elite who have power have not been elected, and those who have been elected have no power.
- The European project was designed to take over the governance of the nation states and to create an unaccountable self-perpetuating oligarchy to rule without the inconvenience of democracy. It gave itself a façade of legitimacy by creating the European Parliament, but this Parliament is a sham.
The European arena continues to be largely the domain of self-selecting political and commercial elites.
The fundamental democratic flaws in the European Union are now so deep, and history shows that the Union exhibits no sign of wanting to change them. Perhaps the only solution if we wish to live in a democracy is for the United Kingdom to withdraw from this wholly undemocratic body.
It is time for the people to decide.
I gather the President of Wycombe Conservative Association has now been banned from the selection process (see below). You couldn't make it up!
Open Europe - Irish Referendum
Extracts from the Open Europe web site:
On Wednesday 16th September the following appeared on the Wycombe Conservative association web site:
"Yesterday (Tuesday 15th September 2009) Eric Pickles MP, Chairman of the Conservative Party, suspended procedure for the selection of Candidates in the Wycombe Constituency because of an alleged irregularity. The selection procedure was being conducted by a Selection Committee of the Executive Council of Wycombe Conservative Association, but it appears that this action was taken without any direct communication with any of the officers of the Association. It is also unclear until the Executive Council meet what the effect of the purported suspension is."
Thursday 16th September
Mr Moore, the association’s web manager, told the Free Press: “I embarrassed Wycombe Conservative Association and the appropriate thing for me to do was to resign from the committee.”
The Wycombe selection has been a bit of a mess. Everybody wanted a finger in the pie. We are told Central Office had a preferred candidate. The President of the Association - Sir William McAlpine invited ten of the candidates for drinks at his home, then kept two of them on for dinner. The local Muslims were organising their own candidates - the four main tribal elders had a meeting to decide on their candidate. Of course all this was supposed to be under the new rules. What a mess!
Bedford Mayor SelectionGreat play has been made of the success of getting a Conservative Muslim candidate for the Mayor of Bedford. It was an open primary selection or more precise a open caucus selection. Anybody could attend the meeting. The meeting was due to start at 7.30pm but eventually started at 8.50pm. We are told that this was because so many wanted to get in. The attendance was about 400. However I am told that the real reason was that the local Iman had said that Ramadan should finish at 7.34pm., so many of the Muslims attending brought their dinner with them and proceeded to start eating it. I am also told that about 90% of the audience were Muslim and had been bussed to the meeting. Nothing wrong with that, except that there is a danger, particularly at an open meeting that the candidate will be chosen on purely ethnic grounds. Has this open primary system opened up a whole new can of worms? We shall see.
Have you recently tried to obtain a copy of the Conservative Party Constitution? You used to be able to see one on the Party's web site. It would seem no more. At a time when many constituencies are selecting candidates and many members want to check what the Constitution has to say about this it is essential that a member has easy access to the Constitution. So, come on Central Office put it back on the web site so anyone can see it. After all, what is there to hide?
If you are going to the Tory Party Conference put the following events in your diary. I hope to see you there.
Sunday 4th October 3.15pm
Vote for Change - Speakers: Dan Hannan MEP, John Strafford, Chairman - Martin Bell
Friends Meeting House, Mount St. Manchester, M2 5NSTuesday 6th October 4.30pm
COPOV meeting - "Death of Democracy" John Strafford, Freedom Zone, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Tuesday 6th October 5.45pm
"Our Fight for Democracy " book signing John Strafford, Freedom Zone, Bridgwater Hall, Manchester
Wednesday 7th October 12.30pm
Dragons Den Michael White, John Strafford, Main Conference Centre.
A Level Playing Field?
In the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty supporters of the Treaty are set to out-spend the No side by 10 to 1. An estimate of the budgets for the Yes side indicates it will spend at least €2.4m, compared with the No campaign's €270,000. (Sunday Times, 23 August)
If the Finance Ministers could agree, there are two simple ways in which the bankers could be brought to heal. The total remuneration of the highest paid person in a bank should not receive more than twenty times the remuneration of the lowest paid person in the bank. All the banks are limited liability companies. The state allowed them limited liability. What the state gives it can take away. Make the Directors of the banks personally liable for all the banks debts. I bet you would see a wholly different approach to the risky dealing which is now associated with the banks and which the taxpayer will be paying for during the next decade.
Toryism - Nothing changes.
"Toryism is not only a Party spirit but a way of life, not only a political attitude of mind but a regenerative social and moral force, but Toryism could only be such a force if it grapples with issues such as pensions, health, and welfare provision which are examples, taken almost at random, of the sort of questions as to which the Tory Party should be thoroughly well informed".
Sir Arnold Wilson - October 1935
Party membership has fallen by "almost a quarter" under David Cameron's leadership
Its conclusion is that membership has fallen by almost a quarter during the period which David Cameron has led the party:
Last month Tim asked What is the point of being a Tory member? and cited a series of members' rights which have been taken away over recent years - mostly surrounding the power to select and deselect elected representatives.
And John Strafford covered similar ground just a couple of weeks ago in his Platform piece, The decline and death of Party membership - Why should anyone now be a member of the Conservative Party?
I should say in all fairness, however, that not only has there been a longstanding downward trend in membership over a period of years and indeed decades, but that this trend is equally apparent in parties across the political spectrum.
August 23rd Party Membership
August 16th Conservative Party Accounts 2008 - World At One, Martha Kearney's Newsletter - The Case against boosting MP's pay
August 9th Selection of Parliamentary Candidates - Open Primaries - Can We Learn?
August 2nd Interference from Central Office - Totnes - Dudley North - St Albans - European Parliament
The Conservative Party Scrutiny Panel has examined the expenses of Conservative MPs. To some of them it has written:
"The Scrutiny Panel examined your detailed ACA claims and I can confirm that we do not require you to answer any queries about them and there is no requirement for any repayments to be made."
In the interests of all those Conservative MPs who have a clean bill of health on the expenses issue why don't the Conservatives list all their MPs who have received a similar letter?
War Room Briefing
This week the Party Chairman praised the success of the Open primary at Totnes. He said that 16,000 people have voted and they now have ownership in the new candidate. Isn't he forgetting that Sarah Wollaston got 7,914 votes. 8,583 votes were cast for the other candidates. Does that mean a majority of the people have decided that they do not want ownership of Sarah?
Quangos banned from party conferences
Good news: we have a notable victory to report! You may recall that a few days before New Year we produced a report revealing that the Regional Development Agencies spent £285,000 at the three main party conferences last autumn. At the time, we advised that quangos should be banned from using taxpayers' money to lobby politicians for even more money. Not only is it a perversion of the public policy process, but it is also in practice a taxpayer-funded subsidy for the political parties themselves.
This week it has emerged that only days after our report came out, Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell (pictured, right) issued an order banning quangos from attending the conferences. This is a great policy change that will save taxpayers millions of pounds and demonstrates the influence of the TPA's research, media profile and campaigning.
The TPA has long campaigned against the Carbon Trust, which gets £93.4 million of taxpayers' money every year and whose 145 staff enjoy an average salary of £75,000, so it was great to see the news of their disgraceful global expansion plans covered prominently in the Daily Mail.
The following article was published on www.conservativehome.com this week. It received over 80 responses. To see them click on below:
Nearly all the responses concentrated on the decline in Party membership and what could or should be done about it. The much wider and possibly more important issue for our democracy, regarding the fact that about a dozen people will determine the composition of the House of Commons for a generation has been overlooked. We can talk about electoral reform until the cows come home but if our two main political parties are undemocratic organisations and a tiny number of people in them determine their parliamentary candidates, electoral reform will change nothing. The oligarchies in control will always win. One other point in connection with this, is that the Conservative Party has received some £40 million in State Funding over the last twelve years. Is it right that taxpayers money should be spent supporting an oligarchy? Why hasn't the Electoral Commission stepped in and demanded that the price of taxpayer funding is the organisation receiving it should have a democratic constitution - that means one member one vote when it comes to altering the Party's constitution?
In 1949, in Winston Churchill’s own constituency of Woodford there were 12,898 members including 1,172 Young Conservatives. City areas were not neglected, with 60,000 members in Birmingham, two thirds of them women. The young were not forgotten. In the summer of 1945 there were only 50 Young Conservative branches in the country. By 1946 this had increased to 1,546 nationally and by 1948 to 2,129 branches with no less than 150,000 members.
Participation was the key to this success. Swinton College was opened in 1947. Its role was to educate activists, train agents and volunteers and arrange lectures. The Conservative Political Centre encouraged local discussion groups and by 1947 there were 557 of them, meeting regularly in a member’s house and all putting forward ideas and views on policy. Their views were taken seriously by Central Office.
The strength of Party membership was not to last. By 1979 it had fallen to 1,350,000. It continued to fall and went down to 400,000 by 1997. A million members simply evaporated. The most serious losses were of suburban and county activists for whom executive power on local councils was a quid pro quo for loyalty at national elections.
After the reorganisation of the Party, membership picked up a little, but by nowhere near as much as the Tories hoped. The total had fallen to 320,000 by 2003. Today in 2009 membership of the Conservative Party is less than 200,000.
Although the Party now has a constitution, that constitution cannot be changed without the agreement of an Electoral College consisting of members of Parliament on the one hand and the National Convention, which consists mainly of Constituency Chairmen, on the other. In this Electoral College the MP’s vote is worth five times that of a Constituency Chairman. The real power resides with the Parliamentary Party. The Chairman and Treasurer of the Party are appointed by the Leader so are unaccountable to the membership. There is no Annual General Meeting of members so there is no formal forum for members to raise questions about the Party’s organisation or policies. The Annual Accounts of the Party are not tabled for approval at an AGM. The Parliamentary candidates of the Party are controlled centrally. The Party Board can and does take control of any Constituency Association, which does not toe the line. The infamous clause 17 of the constitution: “The Board shall have power to do anything which in its opinion relates to the management and administration of the Party”, makes the rest of the constitution meaningless.
Does the decline in membership matter? There are two major reasons why it does. Of the 200,000 Party members about 10% or 20,000 are activists. Today those activists consist primarily of 10,000 Councillors, their family and friends.
Within a year there will be a General Election at which it is almost certain that the Conservative Party will form a government. Because of the dire state of the economy some very tough and very unpopular decisions will have to be taken. At the time when we will be most unpopular there will be local elections and many of our Councillors will lose their seats, not because they have performed badly, but because of the national position. The effect on Party membership will be catastrophic.
Why should anyone be a member of the Conservative Party? Prior to the Party reforms of 1998 there were a number of reasons to be a member of the Conservative Party. There were meetings at Area and National level where you could raise issues of policy or organisation. The Party conference was run by the voluntary Party. It had motions for debate. Constituency Associations were for all intents and purposes autonomous. The Party had three distinct sections, the Parliamentary Party, the voluntary party and the professional organisation. There were checks and balances in the distribution of power. All of these were swept away in 1998, but the members held onto one last right – that of selecting their parliamentary candidate.
This has now gone. At the Party Board meeting in July 2009 new rules were brought in for the selection of Conservative Party candidates. Now, the Party Chairman will decide whether an Association should select its candidate by a Special General Meeting or by an Open Primary.
For each constituency a meeting will be held at a place designated by the Party Chairman at which the Approved List of candidates will be reduced to six names, 50% of whom will be women. At this meeting there will be six representatives of the local Association. The Party Chairman will have a veto on the six names to go forward to the next stage.
The real impact of this is that the Party Chairman will determine the Conservative candidates and consequently the Conservative Party composition in the House of Commons for a generation. The Labour Party looks as though it will go down a similar route. A tiny number of people will determine who sits in the House of Commons and effectively form the government of this country. Is this the way dictatorships are created without the need for bloody revolution?
There is much talk about electoral reform but when will the media and people “wake up and smell the coffee?” If our two main political parties are wholly undemocratic organisations, electoral reform is meaningless. Democracy R.I.P.
Conservative Party Accounts 2008
Nothing too controversial this year. Disappointingly, membership is almost the same level as last year. At this point in the electoral cycle it should be going up. One odd point, income from fund raising activities was £849,000. Cost of fund raising activities £1,111,000. So, scrap the fund raising department and save £262,000 almost doubling the surplus for the year!
World at One - Martha Kearney's Newsletter
Some Conservative MPs do agree with Alan Duncan. The veteran Tory MP Sir Patrick Cormack told us that although Mr Duncan's comments were "unwise" he agreed restrictions on MPs' pay and perks could put people off entering Parliament because it was an "extremely expensive business". Sir Patrick told us on Thursday's programme: "What we do not want in this country is a Parliament of political anoraks and extremely rich people." He continued: "The fact is that being a Member of Parliament is an extremely expensive business. One is expected to give liberally to all manner of charities, one is expected to attend all manner of events, one is expected constantly to be putting one's hand into one's pocket. One has to recognise that it is expensive being a Member of Parliament. It is a public service, it is a vocation and you don't go in it for the money."
Those remarks infuriated John Strafford, who chairs the Campaign for Conservative Democracy -- a grass roots pressure group. He described them as "barmy", as there were 4000 people who wanted to become Conservative MPs.
He also told me that his members felt very let down by Mr Duncan's comments: "He's now got a record for coming out with rather silly remarks. This is the third time it's happened and people feel very very strong about it. I mean the tragedy is he's a witty, charming, amusing, very intelligent man but he does have this streak of arrogance that occasionally comes through and he's got to learn to keep it private."
- An MP’s basic salary - £64,766 – places them in the top 3% of the British population by earnings. By comparison, last year the median gross annual earnings for UK adults in work was £25,100.
- On a comparison of basic salaries, British MPs are the fourth best paid in Europe, with only their counterparts in Italy, Austria and Ireland earning more.
- Once the heavy taxpayer subsidy for MPs’ pensions – worth £17,468 a year – is taken into account, an ordinary backbencher actually earns £82,252 a year.
- 131 MPs receive salary top-ups called ‘Additional Payments’ for their Parliamentary work over and above the basic backbencher’s salary. This total consists of the Prime Minister, 60 Government ministers and Under Secretaries, 26 select committee chairmen, 37 standing committee chairmen and 7 other MPs. In total, these MPs received £3.5 million in extra payments in 2007-08.
Selection of Parliamentary Candidates
Under the new rules agreed by the Party Board on 22nd July 09:
1)"The Party Chairman,.... will decide if the Association should make its selection by holding an SGM or a Primary/SGM".
So the Party Chairman decides what selection process to be used.
2)"The Selection Meeting (Paper Sift) will take place at CCHQ, or another place designated by the Party Chairman".
So the Party Chairman decides where the meeting will be held.
3)"The final list will be agreed in consultation with the Chairman of the Party and must have the agreement of both parties before proceeding to the next stage".
So the Party Chairman has a veto. Remember, all the candidates being considered are on the Approved List, in any case.
4) "From this meeting 6 applicants, plus 2 reserves(at least 50% of the candidates being put forward must be women) will be prioritised".
Was it 94% of Party members disagreed with 50/50 short lists?
Would all this have happened if we had an elected Party Chairman? I think not. Have the control freaks taken over? You decide!
In his article in today's Sunday Telegraph Dan Hannan MEP praises "Open Primaries". He says "Allowing local party members to present a shortlist to the wider constituency will give them more power than at present, when they simply get to choose from a shortlist". How does Dan reconcile that statement with the above? Even in Totnes the shortlist was finally determined by their Executive Council. The ordinary member had no say.
It looks as though the Labour Party is going to go down the same route of Open Primaries. They also are run by a small oligarchy. The frightening thing about all this is that about a dozen people will determine the composition of the House of Commons for a generation. You can talk about electoral reform until the cows come home but if the candidates for Parliament are all stitched up before hand, electoral reform will mean nothing.
Click on the link below to hear Frank Field MP discuss open primaries with John Strafford
- The Times 5th August 09: "Heather Burwin, the constituency chairman, admitted that she was initially nervous about the decision to open voting to all, but said she was delighted with the outcome. Chillingly for a party that has just spent £40,000, she suggested that Dr Wollaston would have won anyway".
- Daily Mail 5th August: "But John Strafford, chairman of the Campaign for Conservative-Democracy group, warned the poll was another 'nail in the coffin for party membership and party democracy'.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1204242/Family-doctor-MP-elected-postal-ballot.html#ixzz0NK2lrxRs
- The Independent 5th August 09: But John Strafford, the chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, denounced the exercise as another "nail in the coffin for party membership and party democracy.
A maverick mayor elected after promising to slash council spending, clear the streets of yobs and ditch politically correct services is the torchbearer for how towns should be run.
On his first morning as Mayor of Doncaster in South Yorkshire, Peter Davies cut his salary from £73,000 to £30,000 then closed the council’s newspaper for "peddling politics on the rates". Now three weeks into his job, Mr Davies is pressing ahead with plans he hopes will see the number of town councillors cut from 63 to just 21, saving taxpayers £800,000.
Mr Davies said: "If 100 senators can run the United States of America, I can’t see how 63 councillors are needed to run Doncaster".
He has withdrawn Doncaster from the Local Government Association and the Local Government Information Unit, saving another £200,000. Mr Davies said, "They are just talking shops". Doncaster is in for some serious untwinning. We are twinned with probably nine other cities around the world and they are just for people to fly off and have a binge at the council’s expense".
The mayor’s chauffeur-driven car has also been axed by Mr Davies and the driver given another job. Mr Davies, born and bred in Doncaster, swept to power in the May election with 24,244 votes as a candidate for the English Democrats, a party that wants tight immigration curbs, an English Parliament and a law forcing every public building to fly the flag of St. George.
He has promised to end council funding for Doncaster’s International Women’s Day, Black History Month and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month.
He said, "Politicians have got completely out of touch with what people want. We need to cut costs. I want to pass on some savings I make in reduced taxes and use the rest for things we really need, like improved children’s services".
Interference from Central Office
Once again Central Office have decided to interfere in the selection process for Parliamentary Candidates. After a disputed Board meeting on July 20th the following extracts reprinted from www.conservativehome.com
- The remaining selections (of which the most significant are the, so far, twelve taking place in seats where sitting Conservative MPs are retiring) will see a sift of all applications by the Association officers along with Eric Pickles, a representative of the Candidates' Committee, most likely its chairman, Shireen Ritchie, and, in attendance, Gareth Fox of the Candidates' Department;
- That sift will pick just six candidates, all of whom the party ideally wants to go to the Special General Meeting or Open Primary;
- The Association Executive will be able to meet as an intermediate stage where anyone "completely unsuitable" (Eric Pickles's words) could be removed and a reserve brought in and in "exceptional" circumstances (again, the chairman's word) that meeting could reduce the final field to four;
- This procedure will apply to seats selecting in the autumn through until the end of the year (although I gather seats where the sitting MP announced their retirement pre-Expensesgate, i.e. Woking and Skipton & Ripon, may be able to use the traditional procedure);
- For any seats where the sitting MP announces his or her retirement after January 1st 2010, "by-election rules" will kick in, whereby associations will simply be presented with a list of three candidates by the party from which to choose.
The usual more open selection procedures could have been followed in the time available: First of all, there are a large number of new applicants being put through the parliamentary assessment boards over the summer, but once they are complete (assuming there is not an autumn election), why could those seats not proceed with selections in the usual manner between October and December? Additionally, the deadline of the end of the year seems premature for the seriously anti-democratic rules to come into play. If the General Election is to take place on the same day as the local elections at the beginning of May (with a campaign starting early April), it is surely feasible that the deadline could be put back by a month or even two.
Why are Associations only getting the option of choosing between six candidates? Assuming that the safe seats seeking a new candidate (and most likely MP) attract - literally - hundreds of applicants, it is massively restrictive to allow only six names through the sift. These associations effectively get to choose their representative once in a generation and it is surely right that they should get to select from the widest manageable field. It is inevitable in these circumstances that members will feel that undue influence is being asserted by CCHQ.
CCHQ proposed even more undemocratic options for selection: These rule changes were passed through the Board, although there were a range of even more anti-democratic options that were under consideration, but which were jettisoned, not least because of opposition from the members of the voluntary party on the Board and Sir Michael Spicer.
Party members lose more rights to the centre: We appear to be stuck with procedures which marginalise the role of rank and file members in the selection process and allow for local Associations to remain "in control of the process" only really insofar as a handful of officers are involved in the crucial sifting process. Many party members will ask themselves why they remain members at all when in selection of MEPs and their Westminster candidate they have fewer rights than at any time in recent party history.
Selection freedoms will be even more restricted in 2010: Perhaps the most crucial point to emphasise at this juncture is that Conservative MPs should feel duty bound to make their intentions clear about whether they intend standing again as soon as possible, since any announcements of retirements coming in the New Year will result in their associations losing any remaining semblance of control of the selection process.
On Saturday 18th July, 12 candidates had been due to be interviewed in Dudley North, but they all received an email on the evening of Thursday 16th from the association chairman, Martin Duffield, explaining that "following a meeting today with Gareth Fox (Candidates Department) and John Maples (Party Vice-Chairman) we have been informed that we cannot proceed with the interview process".
The reason was that the Dudley North Association had opted to interview nine men and three women, in contravention of the rule stating that there should be a 50:50 male:female ratio throughout the process.
The association had taken the view that since only eight of the 44 applicants were women, to interview six of them seemed somewhat excessive and discriminatory towards the 36 men who had applied. Instead, they sought to interview the best twelve applicants, who happened to be nine men and three women.
But CCHQ refused to allow the process to continue although, according to the Association Chairman, it did not intervene to stop the process until five days after it had been sent the list of names, meaning that the candidates for interview had very limited notice of the change of plan.
Final confirmation of the abandonment of the process came in an email from Gareth Fox on July 21st, in which he simply said that "unfortunately the Dudley North Parliamentary selection will not now go ahead in this tranche and will be re-advertised at a later date".
Reprinted from www.conservativehome.com
In a poll conducted by www.conservativehome.com 91% of Conservative Party members oppose 50/50 short lists for candidates. Does the Party belong to the members or is it just a cosy little oligarchy which treats the members with contempt?
Ann Main, the MP for St Albans faces a meeting of her Association called to deselect her. The St Albans Association receives financial help from Beaconsfield. There are rumours that the financial help will cease if Ann Main is deselected. I hope this is untrue. It would be completely wrong for a Constituency to interfere in the internal affairs of another Constituency Association.
UKIP MEP Marta Andreasen, the EU's former Chief Accountant who publicly claimed that there was a £172 million discrepancy between two sets of Brussels accounts, has been blocked from becoming Vice-Chairman of the European Parliament's Budgetary Committee by an unprecedented 'secret ballot' of MEPs. The centre-right European People's Party and the Socialists broke parliamentary convention on the allocation of committee posts by demanding a vote by secret ballot to block Mrs Andreasen's candidature. Chris Davies, a Liberal Democrat, attacked the "shameful decision", saying that: "The message it sends to the public is that anyone who speaks out against malpractice in Europe risks being excluded from office."
Reprinted from www.openeurope.org.uk
July 5th A Conservative Manifesto - National Express - Citizen's Convention Bill - Nursery Rhymes for our TimesJuly 26th
Totnes Open Primary
It has been announced that there will be an Open Primary for the Totnes Parliamentary seat (see below). Ballot papers will be sent to every elector in Totnes, some 69,000 of them, with a freepost reply. The cost of this bizarre exercise will be at least £40,000. Who is paying for this? Is it the Constituency Association? Is it a particular benefactor? Is it the Conservative Party? Is it the candidates? I think we should be told. It is quite clear that there are few, if any, Constituency Associations that could even attempt to pay this kind of money out in selecting their candidate, and in any case why should an Association pay out good money to enable members of the Liberal Democrats and members of the Labour Party to choose the Conservative candidate? Whoever thought up this ridiculous scheme needs their head examining. If anyone can now choose the Conservative candidate why should anyone want to be a member of the Conservative Party. What benefits do they get from being a member? The right to be continuously hassled for money and that's about it. No wonder membership is plummeting.
Alright for Some
At this time of belt tightening some still get preferential treatment. Tucked away in the small print of the last budget is a clause permitting the Prince of Wales to deduct his son's expenses from his own tax bill. I would like to deduct my own son's expenses from my tax bill. I wonder what the Inland Revenue would say if I tried!
A Conservative ManifestoAt the COPOV meeting held on 4th July the following suggestions were made for inclusion in the Conservative Party manifesto:
Review public sector pensions and bring them into line with pensions in the private sector,
Have the same immigration policy as Immigration Watch - one in, one out,
Abolish stamp duty on houses
Bring in a Glass-Stegal Act separating the investment activities of the banks from their trading activities.
Let us have your suggestionsNational Express
Why isn't the Tory Party attacking the Government over the nationalisation of National Express's East Coast line? Any semi-competent accountant will tell you that if you enter into an agreement with a subsidiary company you demand a Parent Company guarantee so that the Parent Company cannot walk away from the deal. Why didn't the Government do this? The Tories should be asking the question.Citizen's Convention Bill
COPOV is supporting a new law - the Citizen's Convention (Accountability and Ethics) Bill - which will establish a "Citizen's \convention" to look at ways to make the UK political system more ethical and accountable. The Bill sets out the mechanisms for this and the role of the convention. For more information visit the following web site: http://www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/?page_id=2033
Nursery Rhymes for our Times
> SING A SONG OF PARLIAMENT,
> POCKETS FULL OF CASH,
> FRAUDULENTLY CLAIMING
> AND ADDING TO THEIR STASH;
> WITH THEIR PLOY DISCOVERED
> THEY SAID THEY'LL GIVE IT BACK.
> IF YOU OR I HAD DONE THE SAME
> WE'D PROMPTLY GET THE SACK.
> SING A SONG OF FREEBIES,
> SNOUTS ALL IN THE TROUGH.
> GIVING BACK THEIR ILL-GOT GAINS
> IS JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
> SPONGING OFF OUR EARNINGS
> WITH A LIKELY TALE,
> IF WORKING FOLK HAD DONE
> THE SAME
> THEY'D SOON END UP IN JAIL.
> SING A SONG OF FRAUDSTERS
> COUNTING OUT THEIR MONEY.
> THEY SMILE AND LOOK QUITE
> AS THOUGH THEY THINK ITS FUNNY;
> SITTING IN A SECRET PLACE ,
> COUNTING OUT THEIR DOSH,
> ON PLUGS FOR BATHS AND
> CLEANING MOATS,
> FOR CRISPS AND ORANGE SQUASH.
> SING A SONG OF MP's
> WHO TOOK US FOR A RIDE.
> IT'S UP TO US ELECTION TIME
> THEIR FUTURE TO DECIDE.
> IT'S GONE TOO FAR TO BRING BACK TRUST
> OF ANYONE IN POWER.
> TO MOST OF US THEY'LL ALWAYS BE
> A SHIFTY, CROOKED SHOWER.
June 21st MP's expenses - How to Behave - Candidates
June 14th First Past The Post - European Elections - Tony's Lavender List
June 7th Referendum on the Electoral System - MPs expenses
Destruction of the Tory Party
A large number of safe Conservative seats will soon be choosing their Parliamentary candidates. I hear that Central Office are proposing that the candidates will be selected in open primaries with every elector in the constituency having a postal vote. This is madness. On top of the proposal that the Candidates List is now open to anybody, even if they are not members of the Conservative Party, we are seeing the destruction of the Party.
Ordinary Party members cannot understand why members of the Labour Party should be choosing the Conservative Party candidate. They also cannot understand why someone who does not believe in basic Conservative philosophy should be a Conservative Candidate. There is resentment building up in the grass roots of the Party. What is the point of being a member if anyone can select the candidates of the Party. What has been lost sight of is that party politics is tribal. Someone with no allegiance, no commitment to the tribe, has no loyalty. What will happen is that Party membership will continue its inexorable decline. Does this matter? In the short term - No. The Tory Party will form the biggest Party after the General Election and will almost certainly form the Government. It will then have to take some very unpopular measures to get the economy straight. Within a year it will be highly unpopular. It is at times like these when a strong voluntary party comes into its own, giving you that core support that is essential to carry out your program. That support will not be there. It will consist of Councillors, whose anger will be rising as they lose their seats as a result of the unpopularity of the Government. The Tory Party as such will cease to exist.
For some years there have been those in Central Office who would like the voluntary Party disappear. They want to see American style politics in the United Kingdom. Their blueprint is the Republican Party, which does not have members, it has supporters who come together at an election. The difference is that they then get paid for their help. This is why the last Presidential election cost $4 billion. It will not work in the UK. We do not like money in politics.
What is the answer? It is very simple but has so far been unacceptable to the Party hierarchy. Reverse the decline in Party membership. How do you do that? Make the Party a democratic organisation. David Cameron wants to give power to the people. He could show his credentials for a start by giving power to ordinary Party members. Will he? We shall see, but if he doesn't watch the Tory Party go into a slow decline.
While stitching up the hand of a 75 year old Devon farmer, who cut it on a gate while working cattle, the rural doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Gordon Brown and his appointment as Prime Minister.
"Well, you know," drawled the old farmer, "this Brown fellow is what they call a fencepost tortoise." Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a fencepost tortoise was.
The old farmer said, "When you're driving along a country road and you come across a fence post with a tortoise balanced on top, that's called a fencepost tortoise."
The old farmer saw a puzzled look on the doctor's face, so he continued to explain,
"You know he didn't get up there by himself, he definitely doesn't belong up there, he doesn't know what to do while he is up there, and you just have to wonder what kind of idiot put him up there in the first place".
Concern is being expressed with the Conservative Parliamentary Party about unequal treatment of MPs over their use of expenses. This saga will not be resolved until there is a list published by the Scrutiny Committee of every Conservative MP showing what action is being taken if any action is required. There is now sufficient information published in the public domain to give a provisional judgement on MPs. If the Party does not publish a list we will do so, basing it on the criteria we set out our below on the 7th June, using our own judgement. It will also show those MPs who have acted honourably throughout this crisis. It is time they were also named so they are not tarred with the same brush as the dishonourable ones.
How to behave!
Yesterday, 20th June, Dominic Grieve MP for Beaconsfield, held a public meeting to discuss his expenses and electoral reform. Over 170 constituents turned up. He gave everyone present a schedule of the expenses he has claimed and then went through them line by line explaining the expenses. So thorough was this presentation that when he finished nobody had any questions about his expenses. The meeting went on to discuss electoral reform. The meeting was excellently chaired by Earl Howe who was charming but firm in his conduct of the meeting. This was a brilliant example for all Conservative MPs. Well done.
We are hearing disturbing things about the selection of Parliamentary candidates. Will we repeat the same mistakes we made in 2005 by parachuting candidates into seats and imposing them on the Constituency Associations? There is some resentment about opening up the list to anyone, even if they are not members of the Tory Party. That resentment also applies to Open Primaries where anybody can participate even if they are members of the Labour Party. What is the point of being a member of the Conservative Party if a member of another Party can choose our candidates? Rumours abound that the Shadow Cabinet have been asked to put forward five names each of potential candidates. Will this give them priority treatment? The Chairman of the Candidates Committee should be elected by and answerable to Party members. We cannot go on like this. David Cameron talks about giving power to the people. He could set an example by giving power to Party members. One other question. Why are we having to wait until September for selection meetings to take place? The quicker candidates are in position the better they will become known to their electorate.
First Past the Post
This week David Cameron firmly supported First Past the Post as the electoral system for the House of Commons. More precisely, he went on to say we must keep the constituency link. You can do this with the Single Transferable Vote or with the Three Member Seat or even the Alternative Vote so all is not lost. Ironically if the Conservative Party had used First Past the Post for the Conservative Party Leadership Election the Leader today would be David Davis and not David Cameron. If you remember the votes on the first ballot were as follow:
David Davis 62
David Cameron 56
Liam Fox 42
Ken Clarke 38
Ken Clarke and Liam Fox were eliminated and in the second and third rounds. David Cameron went on to win.
Which region of the United Kingdom had the highest turnout in the European Election? Answer - Northern Ireland, which has consistently had the highest turnout in every European election which we have had. It is the only part of the United Kingdom that uses the Single Transferable Vote method of election rather than the List system used everywhere else. This means that in Northern Ireland the electors can vote for individuals rather than parties. It is extraordinary that we have two different methods of voting for the same Parliament. This must be changed. The turnout in Northern Ireland was 42.8% compared to 35% in the rest of the U.K.
May 24th Action from the House of Commons - A Short Guide to Deselection
May 17th Democracy - Referendum
May 10th Parliament's Moral Bankruptcy
May 3rd Ulster Unionists - Iraq War - Ireland's Example - Gordon Resign!
|MEPs are entitled to expenses and allowances of up to £363,000 a year|
Open Europe has found that in total, MEPs are entitled to expenses and allowances of £363,000 a year, including a £261 daily subsistence allowance and £45,648 in general office expenses even though they are provided with offices in Brussels and Strasbourg . This equates to £1,816,250 per MEP over a five year term and no receipts are required. (Sun, 26 May; Times, 29 May; Open Europe blog) This comes on top of £83,282 in salary, £29,309 in pensions and £41,641 in transitional payments. In contrast, UK MPs claim up to £144,000 on average in expenses. (Telegraph, 31 March)
Swedish Left Party MEP Jens Holm has provided a candid account of how the current travel expenses system can lead to MEPs pocketing thousands of euros a year because no receipt is required to account for the actual cost of a journey. He said, "I know that until February this year, the European Parliament has paid me about €200,000 in travel allowances and I'd say that I have donated around €150,000 to charities and also to my own party." (Open Europe blog)
Under new rules, from June onwards, the travel allowance system will be reformed so that MEPs need to provide receipts for their tickets. However, for the majority of their expenditure (office expenses, daily subsistence allowance, staff allowances) MEPs will still not be required to produce receipts.
In the wake of the Westminster expenses scandal, Gordon Brown has ordered all Labour candidates for the European election to agree to publish all receipts for claims made under the MEPs' office allowance. Conservative MEP candidates have taken a pledge to disclose details of their expenses online but they will not provide receipts, while the Lib Dems have made a similar commitment to publish an audited breakdown of their MEPs' costs but also will not publish receipts. (FT,FT, 24 May)
However, it should be noted that none of the parties' manifestos mention publishing receipts. (Open Europe blog)
Meanwhile, it has emerged that more than a third of British MEPs are paying one or more relatives. The wives, husbands and children of MEPs are earning up to £40,000 a year to work as secretaries and researchers at a total annual cost to taxpayers of more than £700,000. (Times, 29 May)
View the Chairman of COPOV on Newsnight arguing for the expulsion of MPs rather than just allowing them to stand down at the next election.
|MPs: we're making them listen|
I'm supporting this important campaign from 38 Degrees and I thought you might like to as well.
In the wake of the MP expenses scandal, we need new powers to make sure MPs answer to us. At the moment we're stuck with disgraced MPs until the next election, no matter what they have done. A new "recall law" will give local people the power to call a fresh vote and sack disgraced MPs.
Please click here to add your name: www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/recall/
How many other jobs do you know where once you've been hired the people who employed you can't sack you for five years, no matter what you've done? In other countries including the USA and Canada, "recall laws" allow voters to call a fresh vote when an elected official has lost their trust. Now we need the same in the UK so that politicians remember who they work for. Let's seize this opportunity to make MPs more accountable to us, for good.
Thanks for getting involved.
A Short Guide to Deselection
A Short Guide To Deselection
- Total transparency showing all the receipts for payments made to MPs. This also include showing second home addresses. If MPs have a security problem that is a matter for the police to deal with.
- Every Constituency Association should hold a General Meeting of members by 31st July and at that meeting there should be a motion to re-adopt the sitting MP. If the motion is lost the MP should be de-selected. This act brings accountability to the Party members, but this is not enough for those MPs that do not have the support of members will continue to stay in Parliament until the next General Election. This is not acceptable. They should resign forthwith.
- Legislation should be introduced immediately so that if 10% of the electors in a constituency sign a petition calling for a by-election the MP is recalled from Parliament and a by-election is held within one month. This makes the MP accountable to their electors. It is no longer acceptable that an MP should only be accountable once every five years at a General Election.
April 19th George Orwell's 1984
April 12th MP's expenses - Kettling - Fact
April 5th A Question of Accountability - Congratulations - Don Porter - First Past The Post
March 29th Stuart Wheeler - ***Star of the Week - Wally of the Week
March 22nd European Parliament Election - Why Vote? - Naughty Fiona - Euro Subsidies
March 15th Shambles - Did you Know (1) & (2) - Voting in the European Parliament
March 8th Northern Ireland - Repeal of Legislation Act - Nuclear Submarines - The Surveillance society - All Party Groups
March 1st Convention of Modern Liberty - Froth, Pure Froth - On Open Letter to Gordon Brown - You could not make it up
***** Star of the Week***** - David Cameron MP
For the best speech from a Party Leader that I have ever heard. Speaking at the Spring Forum, his speech was sober, serious, no tub thumping, but set out where we were and what the Conservative Party had to do. This was the speech of a Prime Minister in waiting. It was a privilege to hear it.
John Redwood reveals Labour's contempt for parliamentary scrutiny
Support our Troops
I heard the following story. I do not know whether it is true, but it is a nice story, worth re-telling:
- The "Ministry of Truth" which of course was set up to tell lies is now called "The Cabinet Office".
- We had a spectacular success with the Iraq War when everybody believed our lies.
- Our policy of continuous war looks like it will be achieved with the war in Afghanistan. This war has so far gone on for eight years and soon will be longer than the First and the Second World wars put together. Of course with continuous war we keep our defence industries in full production.
- Telescreens are now called CCTV cameras. The United Kingdom ( we still have this name, but we are trying to get it subsumed into the European Union) has 20% of the world's CCTV cameras including 800 between Victoria Station and Parliament Square. We are perfecting the technique of issuing instructions through the cameras. This is being trailed in Middlesborough.
- The Inner Party of privileged oligarchs is now called "The Political Class". We continue with our sole objective of pursuing power in order to exercise power.
- Our Newsspeak language is developing. We are adding words such as "collateral damage".
- Doublethink is also making progress. Our political system is now accepted as democratic but of course it isn't.
- Freedom of speech is now a thought crime, as is liberty and justice. We have had some spectacular successes in these fields.
- Our policy of keeping the Proles happy with a continuous supply of football and pornography is highly successful.
One issue which he found himself addressing during his chairmanship was that of the infamous priority list - or so-called "A-List" - of parliamentary candidates, where the party leadership decided that Conservative associations in the safest seats would only be able to select a candidate from a favoured one hundred or so. This provoked a hostile reaction from a large number of activists, as Don explains:
Thirdly, as the European Parliament cannot propose new legislation, the political parties that are standing in the election cannot say in their manifesto what they would do in government, because they will not be in government. Legislation proposed by the Commission has to be accepted by the Parliament, which has only limited powers to change it. Legislation, once passed, is very difficult to reverse as it becomes known as the aquis communautaire (law, which all member states must comply with.)
When another election is called the electorate cannot throw out the government, because it did not elect it in the first place.
So, if a Party cannot say in its manifesto how it will govern, if elected, and if it cannot say what laws it will pass or will reverse, what can it say? This week I put the this question to two candidates for the European Parliament. The first one, a Conservative, said "What a good question" but didn't answer it. The second candidate, Labour, said that they would put in their manifesto what they were campaigning for. So now we know, on June 4th all we will be doing is electing a bunch of lobbyists.
It may be some or none of these things, but in voting we are expressing a view and collectively we create the wisdom of the crowds in determining our future, but only if those votes count.
- Bring back the fun in voluntary politics recognizing that there are so many demands on people’s time
- See the voice of the volunteer heard by the professional politician more often in both political debate and in the running of the Party
- Increase the quantity and quality of training available to the voluntary Party ensuring it is relevant to today’s campaigning methods
- Find a better way of involving experienced members in the activities of the Party and representing the Party on outside bodies at the end of their three year term in office
- Increase the dialogue with local and regional media making our campaign more effective as a result
- Ensure the Conservative Party is the Party of the highest integrity by adopting and enforcing the highest standards in public life
10 Downing Street,
You could not make it up!
Fitness centre for MEPs to cost 9.2m euros. The European Parliament is planning to spend 9.2 million euros refurbishing its fitness centre for MEPs and staff, including an aquagym and a 'chill out' room. Gerard Onesta, a French Green MEP and Vice President of the Parliament insisted that the new gym would have "nothing to do with luxury" and that the facilities would save money by cutting staff absenteeism by up to 30 per cent.
David Davis MP crept into the hall, and said "We face a cliff edge". David Davis went on also about the Government’s inability to sell gilts. He painted an overall gloomy economic situation today, and tensions in the world were rising.
Nick Cohen thought there was a collapse in ideology. Frank Field thought China had the western world by the throat. Douglas Murray thought we had been a decadent society – morally and politically obese. Nick Cohen thought we had to build small businesses. David Davis said we are losing the work ethic and felt that the true out of work figure was nearly 5 million and will be 8 million. He said that 3 million jobs had been provided by private business in last 10 years and 9/10 of that went to immigrants. David Davis said we could not have open borders and welfare benefits.
John Strafford asked if the anger of the people will turn on to politicians who are hated almost as much as bankers. John said the whole political system was rotten.
Sir Christopher Kelly - COPOV Forum - Digital Exclusion - Social Exclusion, - Britain and Afghanistan
Constitution Unit – Tuesday, 24th February 2009
February 15th The Bonus Culture - Our Fight for Democracy - Will they ever learn?
February 8th Torture - Another Week, Another Mess - Terrorism - Carolines Notebook
February 1st Party Constitution - House of Lords Reform - Eligible to Vote - Fat Cats - My Week
Now they come for the photographers - February 16, 2009
You can now be arrested for photographing the Changing of the Guard?
It creates a new offence of "eliciting, publishing or communicating information" relating to members of the Armed Forces, intelligence services and police, which is "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism".
Professional photographers held a protest about the law at Scotland Yard earlier today as they fear that the new law could be used to hinder them as they go about doing their job: after all, policeman are present at many events that press photographers and film crews capture for their audiences, whether they be football matches, scrums outside courthouses or indeed protests themselves.
And as for members of the Armed forces, what about those wanting to take snaps at a display of pageantry like Trooping the Colour, or capture a relative's passing out parade on camera, for instance?
The Government would have us believe that all the laws it introduces in the name of protecting us are well-intentioned, but there is an increasing tally of examples of anti-terror laws being used against decent law-abiding folk going about their private business (think Walter Wolfgang, the heckler at Labour conference, or Maya Evans, the woman who recited the names of the Iraq War dead at the Cenotaph).
How long before a tourist gets stopped for photographing the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace?
Edited version of an article on conservativehome.com
Giving more power to people over their local authorities
- The 12 largest cities outside London will also be given the chance to vote for an elected mayor;
- The police will be made accountable through directly elected police commissioners;
- Power for people to instigate referendums on local issues;
- Requiring councils to publish detailed information on expenditure by local councils – including the pay and perks of senior staff;
- Repealing the "pre-determination" rules that prevent councillors from standing up for their constituents’ views on local issues.
- Abolition of all regional planning and housing powers exercised by regional government;
- Giving councils the power to establish their own local enterprise partnerships to take over the economic development functions of the Regional Development Agencies;
- Scrapping the Government's new Infrastructure Planning Commission, which it intends to use to force through Heathrow expansion.
- Ending Whitehall capping powers and instead giving local residents the power to veto high council tax rises via local referendums;
- Ending all forced unitary amalgamations of local authorities – such as those planned in Norfolk, Suffolk and Devon.
- Local authorities will be able to benefit financially when they deliver the housing that local people need and retain the financial benefits arising from new business activity in their areas;
- Councils will also have discretionary power to help local businesses by levying business rate discounts.
- Number of people stopped nationwide by British Transport Police using s 44: 160,000
- Number of people stopped in London by the Metropolitan Police using s. 44: 200,000
- Number of people amongst the 360,000 stopped under s. 44 and found to have any terrorist material or links: 0
For a detailed report of last week's Hansard Society meeting have a look at Carolines Notebook
To: Members of the National Conservative Convention
Following extensive discussions with colleagues throughout the Party, there are three areas where amendments to the Constitution are proposed. The Board of the Party has unanimously recommended acceptance of these changes, which must be put to a ballot of the Party’s Constitutional College, of which you are a member. Ballot papers will be issued on 25th February.
In summary, the proposed amendments are as follows:
The Composition of the Board of the Party
At the request of the Board in October 2006, three Members of Parliament (elected by the 1922 committee) were invited to attend meetings of the Board and to fully participate in its deliberations. The Board of the Party is "the ultimate supreme body for the management of the party" and the belief was that Conservative MPs should become more engaged in the Board’s decision making process. This experiment has worked very well and the Board now recommends that the three MPs should be given full voting rights. This however requires an amendment to the Constitution.
Conservative Associations: "Mergers and De-Mergers"In recent times, a number of constituencies have been entering into mergers. Given that Article 44 of the Constitution provides that
"A Conservative Association shall be maintained in every Parliamentary constituency in Great Britain".
there is a question mark as to whether or not the mergers that have taken place are constitutional. In the short term this will have little impact, but in the longer term this is an important point.
The purpose of this proposed amendment to the Constitution is to make it quite clear that such mergers are permitted and to provide a set of rules in Schedule 7 of the Constitution. In addition to the current set of rules set out in Schedule 7 for the use of individual constituencies, a further template for merged Associations (Schedule 7A) is to be attached.
The purpose of the proposed amendment is to provide for a full merger between two or more constituencies with a single structure. In addition, there will be an exit route for those Associations that may at some time in the future wish to de-merge.
A number of Associations have formed partnerships rather than a full merger. These are quite legitimate and do not need an amendment to the Constitution to legitimise them.
The Welsh Board of Management
At the request of the Welsh Board, it is proposed to add two further representatives to this body:
- The Secretary of State for Wales, or when in Opposition the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales and
- The MEP topping the Conservative Party list in Wales.
- Members of the National Conservative Convention
- Members of Parliament
- Members of the European Parliament
- Officers of the Association of Conservative Peers and frontbench spokespersons in the House of Lords, as appointed by the Leader of the Party.
Alternatively, if you would like to discuss these proposed amendments with me or seek clarification, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me directly on 07768 147558 (mobile) or 01344 876300 (office). I hope that you will reflect on these proposals and vote, in due course, for their acceptance.
With best wishes
DON PORTER CBEChairman, National Conservative Convention
January 18th They are at it again! - Democracy Destroyed - My week
January 11th Party Chairman
January 4th Israel is doomed - Israel's Democracy? - One Nation
Julian Lewis MP says MPs should NOT face disclosure of rejected expense applications
"May I flag up a matter that I thought was extremely unfair to the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Margaret Beckett)? She put in a claim in relation to her accommodation for something to do with her garden. The claim was turned down, yet the information that she had tried to get it but been refused was released, much to the joy of the press, who proceeded to criticise her for having asked. Surely what should be revealed is the expenses that are granted. It should not be revealed if somebody asks whether they can claim for something, is told that it is not appropriate and says, “Fine, I will let it go”. That situation was most unfair to the right hon. Lady."
|19th JanuaryInaugural meeting of the Conservative Classical Society. Rupert Mathews, MEP candidate for the East Midlands spoke about Boadicea - the Warrior Queen. Fascinating. 30 people turned up including many young people. I detect a yearning for knowledge about our history.||21st JanuaryBook launch at the IEA for Dominic Raab's book The Assault on Liberty. Dominic is the head of Dominic Grieve's private office. Good attendance at the launch. I had a chat with David Davis, Dominic Grieve, Jonathan Isaby, Iain Dale and others. Very cosy.|
“…change the scope of the application of the [Freedom of Information] Act in relation to information held by the House of Commons and House of Lords regarding expenditure in respect of Members of both Houses. This includes information held by either House about expenses claimed by and allowances paid to Members. Such information is no longer within the scope of the Act.”In short, they intend to exempt the expenses of MPs and Lords from the Freedom of Information Act and thereby close them to public scrutiny. This is to be passed almost a year to the day after the Derek Conway scandal erupted, when it emerged that the MP had been paying his sons as research staff while they were at university, despite not being able to demonstrate that they had actually done any work for him. If the Government gets away with this, scandals such as this will be allowed to continue and we will not be permitted to find out about them.
It is completely outrageous that the Government should seek to do this at all, let alone in such an underhand manner. The Government is planning to put us all on a national identity database, force us to carry identity cards, keep the DNA of millions of innocent people on a database and to read all our emails, phone and internet records regardless of whether we are supposed to have done anything wrong. Their argument is always “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” Why, then, is it one rule for us and another rule for politicians?
What’s more, when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, one of his first acts was to publish the Governance of Britain Green Paper which asserted that “It is right that Parliament should be covered by the [Freedom of Information] Act.”
This proposal is going to be debated in the House of Commons this Thursday - we don’t have much time. For this reason I am strongly urging you to do the following as a matter of urgency:
As Eric Pickles has said, the Bill establishes a dubious constitutional precedent in allowing unelected local bodies to begin to levy and vary taxes on local householders.
The Bill also strips away the last vestiges of democratic accountability at regional level - by giving major housing and planning powers to unelected appointees of Regional Development Agencies with reserved powers by the Secretary of State to revise or disregard regional plans as they see fit.
Even the figleaf of a rationale for the Bill - greater cooperation and collaboration between local authorities in the economic sphere - is a deceit. The Secretary of State will have powers to impose so-called Multi Area Agreements on local authorities and so-called Leaders' Boards (unelected) and Economic Prosperity Boards (unelected), will be effectively to all intents and purposes merely agents of government policy directed through Regional Development Agencies.
|Tuesday 13th JanuaryLord Norman Fowler spoke to the Conservative History Group meeting after a very interesting lecture about his book.|| Wednesday 14th January|
Met Ken Ritchie at the reception of the Electoral Reform society.
Excellent reception, packed out with lots of interesting people.
|Friday 16th JanuaryDominic Grieve gave a brilliant speech at the Bucks. Supper Club. What a star!|
An elected Chairman would be similar to the position at a local level in Constituency Associations. Nobody has ever suggested that the MP appoint the Constituency Chairman.
We have had eight Party Chairmen in the last ten years. The inevitable result is that decisions relating to the organisation have been totally concentrated on the short term with very little long term thinking going on. For example Party membership has more than halved in those ten years. Membership should be a priority for action but it is not given the priority it deserves. If the Party Chairman were accountable to the members perhaps membership would be given priority.
Six of the past eight Party Chairmen have been MPs with a parliamentary career to think of. Is it therefore any surprise if their approach to the position is coloured by the effect it will have on their career? In other words they are thinking of what job they will get on ceasing to be Party Chairman.
The average tenure of a Party Chairman has been 15 months. It probably takes at least six months to understand what the organisation is all about. In their last three months they will be more concerned as to what they are going on to. This leaves only six months in which they can do anything effective. No wonder their approach is short term.
At the next National Convention it will probably be proposed that the extra four MPs who presently sit on the Party Board as non-voting members be given full voting rights. This will considerably weaken the voluntary Party's position. The quid pro quo should be a Party Chairman elected by all the members of the Party. That is what a majority of Party members want. They should get it.