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Westlake Legal Group > Party Democracy and Membership

Nick Hargrave: As a Tory moderate, I’ve been tempted to give up on Johnson’s Conservatives. But here’s why I’m sticking with them.

Nick Hargrave is a former Downing Street special adviser, where he worked under both David Cameron and Theresa May. He now works at Portland, the communications consultancy.

For all the talk of a new age of populism, many senior Conservatives seem to have fallen for that very Westminster myth of a binary culture war. That the British people fall into two neat camps of Leave and Remain. That both sides foam at the mouth with passionate intensity for these causes. That the country is fraying through this division. That we’re angry and we all hate each other. And that no political party in this country can ever win power again unless it squarely picks a side and tells the other to get stuffed.

Now, of course there is a values divide in our country today on the issue of identity. But if you really think that this trumps everything else in the daily lives of the British people then, frankly, you need to get out a bit more. There is a reason why Holly Willoughby, Gareth Bale and Ed Sheeran have much bigger social media followings than Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson. Only a few years ago, we used to say that the average voter spent just a few minutes each week thinking about politics. Now we argue that it is all-consuming.

Go to any focus group right now, or better still talk to an ordinary voter, and you will find that bemusement trumps bellicosity almost every time. Westminster has gone mad, but most people in the country just want this nightmare to be over – and for politicians to get back to tangible, relatable, deliverable, aspirational, outcomes-based policies that help them and their families live a better life.

We won an election on this platform in 2015 a mere 13 months before that supposed turning point referendum. It is crackers that Conservative MPs are spending more time now talking about free ports and SPS checks on agri-foods – than they are about making childcare cheaper for the parents of zero to two-year olds.

If you are a Tory – an anti-No Deal MP, a Cameron-era member or a wavering Lib-Dem switcher – who yearns for a return to this moderate normality then there are more reasons to be optimistic about the future of the party than you might think. The party leadership has done a good job of trying to alienate you since the summer with their words and deeds. But for people still weighing up whether to stay or go elsewhere, I still believe there is a clear case for sticking with the Conservative Party in the years ahead.

First of all, contrary to appearances, the Prime Minster is actually on your side of the argument. He backed Leave in 2016 because he wanted to position himself with the party membership for the future – rather than because of a neuralgic obsession about our customs relationship with the EU. He ran a leadership campaign aimed squarely at the party’s Brexit-centric voting shareholders because he knew that was the only route to Number 10. But as well as being a political opportunist, Boris Johnson has always had an intuitive grasp of the public mood. As said recently, once we leave the European Union he wants to focus with “an absolute laser like precision on the domestic agenda”.

These are not the words of a man who is looking to spend the next decade grappling with dramatic divergence or Government by Operation Yellowhammer. He knows there aren’t very many votes in it. He patently wants to get a withdrawal deal done, go to the country with a sensible retail domestic platform, win a decent majority  – and then use that mandate to put trade talks in the second tier, minimally divergent in the short-term box they belong.

All the while he will focus on schools, hospitals, housing and crime as domestic priorities instead. For those who say this is impossible given the pressure from his backbenchers – Canada good, Norway bad – I would only say that it is amazing what a healthy majority can do for your powers as Prime Minister. And who knows what the EU itself will look like in five years’ time.

Second, the prospect of leaving the European Union with a deal by October 31 – or shortly after with a brief technical extension- is under-priced at the moment.  It is the least politically difficult for Johnson of all of his options now.

The UK and the EU27 are also less far apart on the substance than suits either side to say. There is a way through on the much obsessed backstop that puts lipstick on the original proposal of limited future divergence in the Irish Sea. So much of the reason that this was a non-starter for Theresa May was that she knew she would never fight another election and her future was bound with the favour of the DUP. That is not true for Boris Johnson in quite the same way. That is before you get to the logical argument that Northern Ireland’s history since its construction in 1921 has been based on evolving and imaginative constitutional flex – that recognises the profoundly unique circumstances of the past.

Third, with a bit of strategic direction in the 2020s, it is perfectly possible to make the Conservative Party’s membership more reflective of the country at large. This in turn has an impact on what front rank politicians in the party end up saying and doing. Boris Johnson beat Jeremy Hunt by a margin of 45,497 votes in the last leadership election. The numbers involved are not enormous. If you want the next candidate of moderation to overturn that deficit then that is the equivalent of recruiting 70 odd supporters per constituency in England, Scotland and Wales in the intervening period. At £2.09 a month by direct debit, with minimal obligations for boots on the ground activism, that is a pretty sellable insurance policy for the future of your country.

Finally – and simply – the perfect should never be the enemy of the just about bearable in a first-past-the-post electoral system. This is not a time to take any chances. If you don’t think Jeremy Corbyn running the fifth largest economy in the world is a good idea then your vote at the next election should be exercised wisely.

It would be disingenuous to suggest that I agree with everything the Conservative leadership have said and done in recent weeks. It would also be dishonest to claim that the thought of voting Liberal Democrat did not flicker momentarily as we’ve veered towards knuckle-head, pound-shop Orbanism – rather than the finest traditions of Conservatism. But for all that noise, I am not sure the task of recapturing those traditions is as out of grasp as commonly supposed. That’s why I’ll be voting Conservative at the next general election and retaining my membership; I’d thoroughly recommend you do too.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

No, Philip Hammond’s reselection last night does not protect him from being deselected if he loses the Whip

Having made the mistake of learning about the Conservative Party’s rules, because I’m cool like that, it falls to me to try to cut through the confusion and counter-claims about the whole question of what happens when a Conservative MP loses the Whip.

There’s a whole separate debate to be had about whether the Government is right or wrong to threaten to take such action against MPs who vote against them tonight. We’ve covered that elsewhere: I took a look yesterday at why it’s not really accurate to compare a rebellion on an issue like this with more day to day rebellion, while Paul looked this morning at some of the risks, moral hazards and political consequences of the threat.

Rather, this article is just a look at the facts of the process.

First, as I explained earlier in the year – when covering Nick Boles’ dispute with his local association in Grantham – there isn’t really a ‘deselection’ process in the Conservative rulebook. Rather there’s a readoption process for sitting MPs, which they can fail to pass or which can be obstructed in some way. I know that might seem like a fine distinction to draw, but it does matter: it means that being ‘deselected’ is a negative process, failing to clear the requisite hurdles to keep candidate status, not a separate process of its own.

Normally, what’s termed deselection is a constituency event. An MP seeking readoption has to apply to their association executive to do so. They get the chance to present their case to the exec – what they’ve achieved for the constituency, what their plans are, what crucial work they do in government and so on – and then there’s a secret ballot. If they lose, the MP has the fallback options of going to a ballot of the whole association membership or automatically inserting themself onto the shortlist in the ensuing selection meeting. If they win the executive’s approval in that initial vote, however, they’re readopted and that’s normally it.

It’s at this point that things have become confused this week. The Government’s plan to remove the Whip from MPs who rebel tonight was characterised as “deselection” but nobody quite seemed to know why that was the case. In practice, the rulebook reasons why that would be the effect are quite straightforward. To enter the readoption process, you have to be “a sitting Member of Parliament”, and the party constitution defines that as “a Member of the House of Commons in receipt of the Conservative Whip”. So lose the Whip, and you lose your eligibility to be considered for readoption.

It gets a bit more confusing in one case. Philip Hammond – one assumes not coincidentally – managed to get his executive to vote on his readoption last night. They approved him. Some have taken that to mean that it is too late to deselect him by removing the Whip. Certainly Hammond himself claims to believe that, and has promised “the fight of a lifetime” against any attempt to do so.

Unfortunately, I simply think he’s got the rules wrong on this. He was readopted last night, perfectly validly, but that’s not an unassailable, inalienable status. If he loses the Whip tomorrow, effectively ceasing to be a member of the Conservative Party’s Approved Candidates List, then he would cease to be eligible to be nominated as the official Conservative candidate come election time. If Hammond claims that it is against the rules to effectively undo a selection after the fact, he needs to consider what happens when a non-MP Conservative candidate is suspended from the Party in some pre-election scandal: they wouldn’t have the right to insist on being the candidate because of the selection; the selection has been superseded.

The former Chancellor’s threat of “the fight of a lifetime” might “possibly” extend to a legal case, but if the constitution’s explicit rules aren’t sufficient to settle that (and they appear to be to me), the constitution also contains two clauses which make it implicitly impossible for him to prevail. Schedule 6, point 8, empowers the Party Board’s Committee on Candidates to establish any set of criteria it likes for membership of the Approved List. Schedule 6, point 13, empowers the Board and the Candidates Committee to “publish mandatory rules as to the procedure by which Constituency Associations and other bodies select Candidates for all or any public elections” whenever and however it likes. In short, if what they want to do isn’t covered to their satisfaction elsewhere in the constitution, they can write a binding policy making it so.

If that seems a remarkable degree of centralised and unchallengeable power, that’s because it is. Those Schedule 6 powers were used to establish the controversial selection rules used in the dash to select before the 2017 snap election, and even two years after I reported it people still seem surprised to learn that it really does work on the basis that the Party sets whatever rules it wants for itself.

If all those powers weren’t sufficient, and an association still wants to hold out to try to hang onto its candidate, then the Party Board has the power (under Part VII, points 49-53 of the constitution) to place the association into ‘Supported’ status, which amounts to central control. In short, this is not the localised, association-controlled party of 30 years ago. Nor has it been for quite some time.

Finally, when election time comes round, if for whatever reason Hammond and his association still tried to submit nomination papers, a national party must licence local candidates to stand on its ticket. A compliance message from CCHQ to the local Returning Officer making clear he was not their party’s candidate would suffice to prevent the nomination being valid under the Conservative Party name.

I’m aware the above is all rather technical, so here are three examples which illustrate the process in practice.

Howard Flight, 2005. As a sitting MP, Flight lost the chance to seek re-adoption when Michael Howard removed the Whip (for the comparatively minor sin of saying something about fiscal policy the leadership found embarrassing). His association tried to refuse to select someone in his place, as the 2005 General Election approached, but backed down when threatened with Supported status, preferring to begrudgingly find a successor of their choice than have one of CCHQ’s choice forced on them.

Adrian Hilton, 2005. A week before Flight got into trouble, Hilton was deselected by the Party leadership as candidate for Slough. The association stuck to its guns, and was duly taken over by the edict of the Party Board, which selected on its behalf. Hilton challenged the decision in the High Court and lost, with the court finding that the Party’s constitution does indeed allow the centre to set whatever rules and act on whatever basis it likes.

Alex Story, 2016. When Timothy Kirkhope entered the House of Lords, he ceased to be an MEP – meaning the seat would automatically transfer to the next candidate on the list. However, Story – the natural successor – had since been (unfairly) removed from the Approved List, and so the Conservative Party advised the Returning Officer for Yorkshire and the Humber that he was ineligible and the seat would go to somebody else, who had been further down the running order. Story, understandably incensed, challenged the verdict in court, only to also fall foul of the constitution’s provisions for the Party to do as it wishes.

In brief, Hammond’s readoption last night is not binding, and doesn’t prevent him being deselected by the loss of the Whip. Neither he nor his association has the ultimate say over his candidacy. And if the published rules as they stand aren’t sufficient to make all that the case, the Party Board has the power to write the rules however it feels necessary to make it so. And so far as I can recall, the court case record for the Party in such disputes is a merciless clean sweep.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

No, Philip Hammond’s reselection last night does not protect him from being deselected if he loses the Whip

Having made the mistake of learning about the Conservative Party’s rules, because I’m cool like that, it falls to me to try to cut through the confusion and counter-claims about the whole question of what happens when a Conservative MP loses the Whip.

There’s a whole separate debate to be had about whether the Government is right or wrong to threaten to take such action against MPs who vote against them tonight. We’ve covered that elsewhere: I took a look yesterday at why it’s not really accurate to compare a rebellion on an issue like this with more day to day rebellion, while Paul looked this morning at some of the risks, moral hazards and political consequences of the threat.

Rather, this article is just a look at the facts of the process.

First, as I explained earlier in the year – when covering Nick Boles’ dispute with his local association in Grantham – there isn’t really a ‘deselection’ process in the Conservative rulebook. Rather there’s a readoption process for sitting MPs, which they can fail to pass or which can be obstructed in some way. I know that might seem like a fine distinction to draw, but it does matter: it means that being ‘deselected’ is a negative process, failing to clear the requisite hurdles to keep candidate status, not a separate process of its own.

Normally, what’s termed deselection is a constituency event. An MP seeking readoption has to apply to their association executive to do so. They get the chance to present their case to the exec – what they’ve achieved for the constituency, what their plans are, what crucial work they do in government and so on – and then there’s a secret ballot. If they lose, the MP has the fallback options of going to a ballot of the whole association membership or automatically inserting themself onto the shortlist in the ensuing selection meeting. If they win the executive’s approval in that initial vote, however, they’re readopted and that’s normally it.

It’s at this point that things have become confused this week. The Government’s plan to remove the Whip from MPs who rebel tonight was characterised as “deselection” but nobody quite seemed to know why that was the case. In practice, the rulebook reasons why that would be the effect are quite straightforward. To enter the readoption process, you have to be “a sitting Member of Parliament”, and the party constitution defines that as “a Member of the House of Commons in receipt of the Conservative Whip”. So lose the Whip, and you lose your eligibility to be considered for readoption.

It gets a bit more confusing in one case. Philip Hammond – one assumes not coincidentally – managed to get his executive to vote on his readoption last night. They approved him. Some have taken that to mean that it is too late to deselect him by removing the Whip. Certainly Hammond himself claims to believe that, and has promised “the fight of a lifetime” against any attempt to do so.

Unfortunately, I simply think he’s got the rules wrong on this. He was readopted last night, perfectly validly, but that’s not an unassailable, inalienable status. If he loses the Whip tomorrow, effectively ceasing to be a member of the Conservative Party’s Approved Candidates List, then he would cease to be eligible to be nominated as the official Conservative candidate come election time. If Hammond claims that it is against the rules to effectively undo a selection after the fact, he needs to consider what happens when a non-MP Conservative candidate is suspended from the Party in some pre-election scandal: they wouldn’t have the right to insist on being the candidate because of the selection; the selection has been superseded.

The former Chancellor’s threat of “the fight of a lifetime” might “possibly” extend to a legal case, but if the constitution’s explicit rules aren’t sufficient to settle that (and they appear to be to me), the constitution also contains two clauses which make it implicitly impossible for him to prevail. Schedule 6, point 8, empowers the Party Board’s Committee on Candidates to establish any set of criteria it likes for membership of the Approved List. Schedule 6, point 13, empowers the Board and the Candidates Committee to “publish mandatory rules as to the procedure by which Constituency Associations and other bodies select Candidates for all or any public elections” whenever and however it likes. In short, if what they want to do isn’t covered to their satisfaction elsewhere in the constitution, they can write a binding policy making it so.

If that seems a remarkable degree of centralised and unchallengeable power, that’s because it is. Those Schedule 6 powers were used to establish the controversial selection rules used in the dash to select before the 2017 snap election, and even two years after I reported it people still seem surprised to learn that it really does work on the basis that the Party sets whatever rules it wants for itself.

If all those powers weren’t sufficient, and an association still wants to hold out to try to hang onto its candidate, then the Party Board has the power (under Part VII, points 49-53 of the constitution) to place the association into ‘Supported’ status, which amounts to central control. In short, this is not the localised, association-controlled party of 30 years ago. Nor has it been for quite some time.

Finally, when election time comes round, if for whatever reason Hammond and his association still tried to submit nomination papers, a national party must licence local candidates to stand on its ticket. A compliance message from CCHQ to the local Returning Officer making clear he was not their party’s candidate would suffice to prevent the nomination being valid under the Conservative Party name.

I’m aware the above is all rather technical, so here are three examples which illustrate the process in practice.

Howard Flight, 2005. As a sitting MP, Flight lost the chance to seek re-adoption when Michael Howard removed the Whip (for the comparatively minor sin of saying something about fiscal policy the leadership found embarrassing). His association tried to refuse to select someone in his place, as the 2005 General Election approached, but backed down when threatened with Supported status, preferring to begrudgingly find a successor of their choice than have one of CCHQ’s choice forced on them.

Adrian Hilton, 2005. A week before Flight got into trouble, Hilton was deselected by the Party leadership as candidate for Slough. The association stuck to its guns, and was duly taken over by the edict of the Party Board, which selected on its behalf. Hilton challenged the decision in the High Court and lost, with the court finding that the Party’s constitution does indeed allow the centre to set whatever rules and act on whatever basis it likes.

Alex Story, 2016. When Timothy Kirkhope entered the House of Lords, he ceased to be an MEP – meaning the seat would automatically transfer to the next candidate on the list. However, Story – the natural successor – had since been (unfairly) removed from the Approved List, and so the Conservative Party advised the Returning Officer for Yorkshire and the Humber that he was ineligible and the seat would go to somebody else, who had been further down the running order. Story, understandably incensed, challenged the verdict in court, only to also fall foul of the constitution’s provisions for the Party to do as it wishes.

In brief, Hammond’s readoption last night is not binding, and doesn’t prevent him being deselected by the loss of the Whip. Neither he nor his association has the ultimate say over his candidacy. And if the published rules as they stand aren’t sufficient to make all that the case, the Party Board has the power to write the rules however it feels necessary to make it so. And so far as I can recall, the court case record for the Party in such disputes is a merciless clean sweep.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

No, Philip Hammond’s reselection last night does not protect him from being deselected if he loses the Whip

Having made the mistake of learning about the Conservative Party’s rules, because I’m cool like that, it falls to me to try to cut through the confusion and counter-claims about the whole question of what happens when a Conservative MP loses the Whip.

There’s a whole separate debate to be had about whether the Government is right or wrong to threaten to take such action against MPs who vote against them tonight. We’ve covered that elsewhere: I took a look yesterday at why it’s not really accurate to compare a rebellion on an issue like this with more day to day rebellion, while Paul looked this morning at some of the risks, moral hazards and political consequences of the threat.

Rather, this article is just a look at the facts of the process.

First, as I explained earlier in the year – when covering Nick Boles’ dispute with his local association in Grantham – there isn’t really a ‘deselection’ process in the Conservative rulebook. Rather there’s a readoption process for sitting MPs, which they can fail to pass or which can be obstructed in some way. I know that might seem like a fine distinction to draw, but it does matter: it means that being ‘deselected’ is a negative process, failing to clear the requisite hurdles to keep candidate status, not a separate process of its own.

Normally, what’s termed deselection is a constituency event. An MP seeking readoption has to apply to their association executive to do so. They get the chance to present their case to the exec – what they’ve achieved for the constituency, what their plans are, what crucial work they do in government and so on – and then there’s a secret ballot. If they lose, the MP has the fallback options of going to a ballot of the whole association membership or automatically inserting themself onto the shortlist in the ensuing selection meeting. If they win the executive’s approval in that initial vote, however, they’re readopted and that’s normally it.

It’s at this point that things have become confused this week. The Government’s plan to remove the Whip from MPs who rebel tonight was characterised as “deselection” but nobody quite seemed to know why that was the case. In practice, the rulebook reasons why that would be the effect are quite straightforward. To enter the readoption process, you have to be “a sitting Member of Parliament”, and the party constitution defines that as “a Member of the House of Commons in receipt of the Conservative Whip”. So lose the Whip, and you lose your eligibility to be considered for readoption.

It gets a bit more confusing in one case. Philip Hammond – one assumes not coincidentally – managed to get his executive to vote on his readoption last night. They approved him. Some have taken that to mean that it is too late to deselect him by removing the Whip. Certainly Hammond himself claims to believe that, and has promised “the fight of a lifetime” against any attempt to do so.

Unfortunately, I simply think he’s got the rules wrong on this. He was readopted last night, perfectly validly, but that’s not an unassailable, inalienable status. If he loses the Whip tomorrow, effectively ceasing to be a member of the Conservative Party’s Approved Candidates List, then he would cease to be eligible to be nominated as the official Conservative candidate come election time. If Hammond claims that it is against the rules to effectively undo a selection after the fact, he needs to consider what happens when a non-MP Conservative candidate is suspended from the Party in some pre-election scandal: they wouldn’t have the right to insist on being the candidate because of the selection; the selection has been superseded.

The former Chancellor’s threat of “the fight of a lifetime” might “possibly” extend to a legal case, but if the constitution’s explicit rules aren’t sufficient to settle that (and they appear to be to me), the constitution also contains two clauses which make it implicitly impossible for him to prevail. Schedule 6, point 8, empowers the Party Board’s Committee on Candidates to establish any set of criteria it likes for membership of the Approved List. Schedule 6, point 13, empowers the Board and the Candidates Committee to “publish mandatory rules as to the procedure by which Constituency Associations and other bodies select Candidates for all or any public elections” whenever and however it likes. In short, if what they want to do isn’t covered to their satisfaction elsewhere in the constitution, they can write a binding policy making it so.

If that seems a remarkable degree of centralised and unchallengeable power, that’s because it is. Those Schedule 6 powers were used to establish the controversial selection rules used in the dash to select before the 2017 snap election, and even two years after I reported it people still seem surprised to learn that it really does work on the basis that the Party sets whatever rules it wants for itself.

If all those powers weren’t sufficient, and an association still wants to hold out to try to hang onto its candidate, then the Party Board has the power (under Part VII, points 49-53 of the constitution) to place the association into ‘Supported’ status, which amounts to central control. In short, this is not the localised, association-controlled party of 30 years ago. Nor has it been for quite some time.

Finally, when election time comes round, if for whatever reason Hammond and his association still tried to submit nomination papers, a national party must licence local candidates to stand on its ticket. A compliance message from CCHQ to the local Returning Officer making clear he was not their party’s candidate would suffice to prevent the nomination being valid under the Conservative Party name.

I’m aware the above is all rather technical, so here are three examples which illustrate the process in practice.

Howard Flight, 2005. As a sitting MP, Flight lost the chance to seek re-adoption when Michael Howard removed the Whip (for the comparatively minor sin of saying something about fiscal policy the leadership found embarrassing). His association tried to refuse to select someone in his place, as the 2005 General Election approached, but backed down when threatened with Supported status, preferring to begrudgingly find a successor of their choice than have one of CCHQ’s choice forced on them.

Adrian Hilton, 2005. A week before Flight got into trouble, Hilton was deselected by the Party leadership as candidate for Slough. The association stuck to its guns, and was duly taken over by the edict of the Party Board, which selected on its behalf. Hilton challenged the decision in the High Court and lost, with the court finding that the Party’s constitution does indeed allow the centre to set whatever rules and act on whatever basis it likes.

Alex Story, 2016. When Timothy Kirkhope entered the House of Lords, he ceased to be an MEP – meaning the seat would automatically transfer to the next candidate on the list. However, Story – the natural successor – had since been (unfairly) removed from the Approved List, and so the Conservative Party advised the Returning Officer for Yorkshire and the Humber that he was ineligible and the seat would go to somebody else, who had been further down the running order. Story, understandably incensed, challenged the verdict in court, only to also fall foul of the constitution’s provisions for the Party to do as it wishes.

In brief, Hammond’s readoption last night is not binding, and doesn’t prevent him being deselected by the loss of the Whip. Neither he nor his association has the ultimate say over his candidacy. And if the published rules as they stand aren’t sufficient to make all that the case, the Party Board has the power to write the rules however it feels necessary to make it so. And so far as I can recall, the court case record for the Party in such disputes is a merciless clean sweep.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

John Strafford: The Grieve case raises a question. Do local Associations have the power not to reselect their Conservative MP?

John Strafford is Chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy.

Before the present Conservative Party constitution was adopted in 1998 Constituency Associations were virtually autonomous.  Is this still the case?

In July last year, Dominic Grieve, our local MP, made a long speech about Brexit. Despite him previously having declared that he would abide by the result of the EU referendum, and having voted in favour of the moving of Article 50, it had become obvious that he was determined to do everything possible to stop us leaving.

In the light of this development, I lost all confidence in him as my MP and started to collect the names of other members of Beaconsfield Conservatice Association who felt the same, and no longer wished him to be our candidate at the next general election.

On February 27th, I gave a written motion of no confidence in Dominic Grieve to the Chairman of the Association. On March 4th, I was told that the motion was invalid since I was no longer a member of the Conservative Party – after 56 years of membership.

By the time I had sorted the matter out, and obtained a membership card from CCHQ, the agenda for the Association’s Annual General Meeting had been published and my motion of “no confidence” had been replaced by a motion of “confidence”. (Incidentally my membership card was dated before the date when I submitted the motion – thus starting the many attempts to prevent me and others from speaking out.)

When the AGM duly took place on March 29th, Grieve lost that vote of confidence by 182 votes to 131. He then made it clear that he would ignore the vote.

In view of his reaction, 60 members of the Association presented a petition requesting a Special General Meeting of the Association to the Secretary of the Executive Council in accordance with Schedule 7, clause 10.1.2 of the Party’s Constitution which states:

“10: Special General Meetings

10.1.2 upon a petition signed by not less than fifty members of the Association or 10% of the total membership of the Association for the previous year (whichever is less) sent to the Secretary of the Executive Council of the Association requesting him to convene such a meeting;

10.1.3 Notice of the Special General Meeting shall be given to every member of the Association. The business of the meeting shall be stated in the notice convening it and no other business shall be discussed.

There is no restriction on what business may be brought forward to Special General Meetings. The petition was duly presented to the Secretary of the Executive Council on May 9th, and read as follows:

“Under Schedule 7, clause 10.1.2 of the Constitution of the Conservative Party we, the undersigned, being members of the Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association petition you to convene a Special General Meeting of members of the Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association in order that the following business shall be conducted:

“The Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association at its Annual General Meeting on 29th March 2019 did not express full confidence in the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve MP.

We therefore resolve that: he should not be the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Beaconsfield at the next general election and the Association should immediately start the process of selecting a new candidate”.

The petition was rejected by the Chairman of the Association on the grounds that it was ultra vires, and that any such motion should follow the procedures of the Executive Council.

I understand that this was the view expressed to the Chairman of the Association by CCCHQ. Who decided it was Ultra Vires and on what grounds? Was the decision made by the Party Board and if not, under what authority was the decision made?

I would point out that Schedule 7 Clause 6.5 of the Party’s Constitution states as follows:

6.5 The Executive Council shall have the following powers and responsibilities:
6.5.1 The Executive Council shall have the power (subject to any resolutions of the Association made at an Annual General Meeting or a Special General Meeting) to deal with all matters affecting the Association and its membership, and to exercise control over all ward and polling district Branches and specialist committees or groups.

A motion at a Special General Meeting overrides the actions of the Executive Council. Subsequent to the amendment to the Representation of the Peoples Act passed in 2006, there is no requirement to hold an adoption meeting for the parliamentary candidate. This had previouly provided the opportunity for every member of an Association to vote for or against the adoption in questions. A number of constituencies, including Beaconsfield, did not hold an adoption meeting at the last general election.

If our petition is to be rejected, it follows that it is possible for a sitting Conservative MP to be re-adopted without the agreement of the majority of the members of their Association.

The Party Board has been asked to instruct the Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association to proceed with a Special General Meeting as was petitioned for, or give detailed reasons as to why it is not allowed. The Chairman of the Party Board was written to on May 24th, but no reply has been received.

After the motion which had been put forward was rejected, it was decided to go ahead with the Special General Meeting, and the Chairman of the Association tabled the following motion:

“That this Association instructs the Executive Council to now request our sitting Member of Parliament to make a written application to seek his re-adoption as our Parliamentary Candidate for the next General Election”.

An amendment was proposed to the motion to insert after application “within 14 days”. This amendment was rejected by the Chairman as once again being Ultra Vires, apparently also at the behest of CCHQ. Yet as we have seen earlier. a Special General Meeting overrides the Executive Council. The same question arises: who issued this instruction, and how was the amendment Ultra Vires?

The unamended motion was carried by 140 votes to 120. Grieve has again decided to ignore it.

If the right of Party members to determine who their candidate should be at general election has now been taken away, what rights are left?

A general election could well be imminent, which is why this issue should be resolved now. It would be a travesty of fairness, democracy and justice if sitting Conservative MPs went forward as Parliamentary Candidates without the support of a majority of their Association members.

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Conservative National Convention election results announced

The results have just been announced of the election of the officers of the Conservative National Convention. I’ve published the full details below, but two things to note initially: Dinah Glover, the London East chairman who effectively weaponised the Convention to help unseat Theresa May, came within 25 votes of a Vice President spot; and despite there being three female VP candidates in a field of seven, all three VP slots have gone to men, despite Julie Iles’ case for more female representation at senior levels of the voluntary party.

Here are the details:

Chairman:
Mr Andrew Sharpe OBE (Elected Unopposed)

President:
Pamela Hall (Elected Unopposed)

Vice Presidents:

Linda Arkley 117

Peter Booth 198

Andrew Colborne-Baber 224

Jim Cooper 123

Dinah Glover 170

Julie Iles 171

James Pearson 195

Andrew Sharpe OBE is elected Chairman of the National Convention;

Pamela Hall is elected President of the National Convention; and that

Peter Booth, Andrew Colborne-Baber and James Pearson are elected as Vice Presidents of the National Convention.

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More than 70 per cent of Conservative Party members believe the UK will leave the EU by 31st October

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-03-at-02.02.10 More than 70 per cent of Conservative Party members believe the UK will leave the EU by 31st October ToryDiary Party Democracy and Membership Highlights EU ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brexit Boris Johnson MP

The third and final finding from this month’s ConservativeHome survey of Party members is not very surprising, but important nonetheless.

Over 72 per cent of respondents answered “Yes” to the question “Do you believe that the UK will leave the EU by 31st October 2019?”

We knew that the majority of Tory members voted Leave, that around six in ten voted for the Brexit Party in the EU elections, and that a clear majority voted for Boris Johnson as Conservative leader. We also know that they are feeling fairly optimistic about the next election, since the change of Prime Minister, and newly positive about his Cabinet.

On that basis, you’d expect a high degree of belief in and agreement with Boris’s pledge to deliver Brexit by the end of October among Tory members. The challenge, of course, comes in ensuring the promise – and thereby this weight of expectation – is fulfilled. Fail that test, and every other positive number will tumble with it.

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Johnson’s optimism spreads to the grassroots – 58 per cent of Party members expect a Tory majority at the next election

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-01-at-14.16.48 Johnson’s optimism spreads to the grassroots – 58 per cent of Party members expect a Tory majority at the next election ToryDiary Theresa May MP Party Democracy and Membership minority government majority Labour Grassroots Election ConservativeHome Members' Panel Coalition Boris Johnson MP

The first finding from our July survey of over 1,300 Conservative members shows that Boris Johnson’s optimism appears to be infectious.

An outright majority of respondents – 58 per cent – believe the most likely outcome of the next election will be a Conservative majority. That’s up almost 30 percentage points on the finding of just 28.8 per cent saying so in our June survey.

That effect ripples down through the answers to this question. Those predicting a Tory-led coalition are down from 23.9 per cent last month to 14.1 per cent today.

Minority Tory government: marginally down from 13.9 per cent to 13.3.

Minority Labour government: down from 10.1 per cent to 4.6.

Labour-led coalition; down from 17.8 per cent to 8.6.

The proportion expecting majority Labour government: down from 5.5 per cent to 1.4.

Or look at it another way. The overall proportion expecting some form of Conservative government after the next election is now 85.4 per cent – more than two-thirds of whom expect that government to have a majority. A month ago the proportion who foresaw Conservative government of any type was 66.6 per cent – over half of whom expected a Conservative administration limited by coalition or minority status.

People’s expectations can be wrong, of course – just look at the 2017 election result. And the only certainty about the road ahead is that it is uncertain. But it’s clear that the Prime Minister’s focus on sunshine has spread to the previously demoralised Tory grassroots.

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The four finalists for the Canterbury Conservative candidate selection

While the selection in Grantham and Stamford tonight is in a (technically) Tory-held seat, the evening’s other selection meeting takes place in a key marginal. Having voted Conservative for decades, Canterbury fell to Labour in 2017 by the extremely slim margin of 187 votes.

Angela Richardson: Originally from New Zealand, Richardson is the Deputy Chairman Political of Guildford Conservatives and the Vice Chairman of Cranleigh Parish Council. Her professional background is in investment banking operations, and she worked in the City of London at Schroders and Axa Investment Managers. In addition to Conservative activism and campaigning, she fundraises for local charities. Her past ConservativeHome articles can be read here.

Cllr Sally-Ann Hart. Brought up in the North East of England, Cllr Hart has lived for some years in East Sussex, after starting her career in London. She holds a seat on Rother District Council, where she was first elected in 2015, and for the last three years has served as a member of the council’s cabinet with responsibility for Culture and Tourism. In addition to her council work, she is also a magistrate. Cllr HArt contested North West Durham against Labour’s Laura Pidcock in the 2017 election. Her past ConservativeHome articles can be read here.

Cllr Anna Firth: Cllr Firth is Cabinet member for Legal and Democratic Services on Sevenoaks District Council, and a former barrister. She contested the Erith and Thamesmead constituency in the 2015 General Election, stood in the South East region in the 2019 European election, was Co-Chair of Vote Leave’s Women for Britain, and is currently Chairman of Sevenoaks Conservative Association. Her charitable work includes serving as a trustee of West Kent Mind, a mental health charity. She was a finalist in the South Cambridgeshire selection earlier this month. Her past ConservativeHome articles can be found here.

Kirsty Finlayson: A solicitor by profession, Finlayson contested East Ham for the Conservative Party at the 2017 General Election, stood in Tower Hamlets in the 2018 local elections, and was a candidate in London in the 2019 European election. She also previously worked in Parliament for Anne Milton, and is a former member of the European Youth Parliament. In her spare time, Finlayson is a Samaritans volunteer and is actively involved in the 50:50 Parliament campaign for gender equality at Westminster.

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Andrew Kennedy: To energise our Party, and restore it to winning ways, Cleverly must reform its voluntary organisation

Cllr Andrew Kennedy is the Group Agent and Campaign Director in West Kent. He blogs at www.votingandboating.blogspot.com

“Nothing has changed…nothing has changed.”

This short sentence perfectly summed up the despair and frustration of Theresa May about her faltering 2017 election campaign. And “nothing has changed” perfectly sums up how most of us feel about the progress made on voluntary party reform since the publication of the Feldman Review almost five years ago.

In my evidence to that review I demonstrated that the average Conservative Association spent just 16 per cent of its income on campaigning, with 58 per cent used for internal administration and 26 per cent on premises and utilities.

Five years later, those figures have barely changed. If the voluntary party nationwide matched the 66 per cent spent on campaigning in West Kent that would pour an extra £10 million per annum into our core task, which remains winning elections. Just imagine how many more votes we could win, and how much more relevant the voluntary party would be, if we could redirect that £10 million.

With a new leader and Prime Minister comes a new Party Chairman – and with that new Party Chairman comes another chance to implement what is already widely agreed, and overwhelmingly supported, by votes at the National Convention, namely the wholesale reform of our voluntary organisation to make it “fit for purpose”.

Reform of our management and reporting structures

Archie Norman’s reforms of 1997 drastically reduced the size of our management committees. These roles (Chairman plus two deputies) are too broad and deep to be done properly or efficiently. Office-holders cherry-pick the bits of the job that they like, spitting out the unpleasant and unpalatable pips. We need to revisit our local leadership and make the following alterations.

The role of Chairman should stay, but with renewed focus on setting and managing performance indicators. The Treasurer’s role should be re-established in its own right, and the job specs of the two Deputy Chairmen should be split into six new specific roles:

Doorstep campaigning: traditional canvassing and VI;

Delivery co-ordinator: developing and maintaining delivery networks

Digital and Social Media Fundraising: social activity and events

Membership: recruitment and following-up lapsed members\Engagement: encouraging members and supporters to become activists.

Youth: Young Conservatives and campus activity

Outreach: building relationships with faith groups, commuters, farmers and other sympathetic special-interest groups. This new structure should be replicated, where possible, at branch, association, area and regional levels, ensuing clear lines of direction and responsibility throughout the voluntary Party.

Reform of Terms of Office and Annual Meetings

It is ridiculous that our Officers are elected annually and therefore those elected immediately after a General Election are seldom in office when the next election is fought. It is also risible that Annual Meetings are held in March, taking up time and resource during a campaign period, when we should be focussed on elections. We should seek to follow the American Republican Party model where:

Officers at all levels (from branch to region) are elected immediately after a General Election, and remain in office until the next General Election (up to five years).

Their first function would be to review the success/failure of the GE locally, and then put in place a detailed plan to address weaknesses and ensure a better result next time.

General Meetings to be moved to June so that they are clear of campaigning periods, with the primary purpose changed from the election of officers, to the review and management of performance and targets.

These changes would ensure the team that devised the plan were responsible and accountable for delivering its outcome; would provide continuity of leadership at all levels, and most importantly, give ownership of the strategy to those elected to deliver it.

Reform of buildings, staffing and operations

We still own too many buildings that we cannot afford to heat, and employ too many long-serving secretaries, who spend their time printing tickets and inviting people to attend coffee-mornings to raise money to pay the secretary to print more tickets for more coffee-mornings! Groupings/joint-working work because sharing premises and staff-costs releases money to spend on elections, which is the primary purpose of our existence as a political party.

We need to establish a national network of Campaign Centres each covering sufficient constituencies to provide the organisation with a secure financial base.

Association freeholds should be sold and capital invested wisely to provide long-term income.

Each Campaign Centre should have a Director responsible for strategy and development, an Agent responsible for legal and compliance issues, and sufficient secretarial support to look after the routine needs of the member Associations.

Each Member Association should be a full and equal partner, but financial contribution to the running of the Group should be based on a pro-rata membership levy.

CCHQ should be willing to subsidise individual Groupings until they are financially stable (for example, after two years the West Kent Group was able to raise 40 per cent of its running costs, considerably reducing the financial burden on member Associations).

Campaigning, procurement and routine management issues should be devolved to the Groupings from the centre whenever possible, improving localism and giving candidates and activists greater ownership of their campaigns

Reform of the National Convention and the Party Board
Much to the surprise of fellow party reformers, I am not convinced of the wisdom of electing the Party Chairman. Any democratic advantage this might bring would probably be out-weighed by the risk and potential damage of electing a Chairman at odds with the Party Leader. This does not, however, preclude the need for significant reform over how the Voluntary Party is represented at Board level.

If we elect Branch, Association, Area and Regional Officers for the lifetime of a Parliament we should consider doing likewise for members of the Party Board, and covering their expenses, so the roles are accessible to all members based on merit and ability, not just those wealthy enough to finance the expenditure.

There should be specific roles on the Party Board with candidates competing for one of them, rather than the present three Vice-President roles with responsibilities allocated ad hoc as is presently the case.

A new position of Deputy Chairman of the Party should be established and elected by the members. This person would be, in effect, head of the Voluntary Party at Board level, with the existing Chairman still appointed by the Leader.

It is a nonsense that the voluntary Party’s representatives on the Board are elected by a few hundred people, from a membership of 160,000. The franchise (presently members of the National Convention) should be expanded to include all Party Members.

With internal elections once every Parliament (rather than every year) there is no reason we shouldn’t have a series of national hustings and a proper ballot to fully engage our membership and test the candidates in a public forum.

To summarise:

Groupings – to reduce costs and ensure all Associations have access to professional advice and support.

Leadership – to focus our efforts where they are needed and to share the workload

Accountability – to our members, donors and activists

Empowerment – of our Associations, and the re-establishment of autonomy

Continuity – building on what works, whilst implementing the much-needed reforms that we all know must come.

As I wrote five years ago, we must not allow ourselves to continue to manage decline, with a few recalcitrant associations paying lip-service to change whilst working tirelessly to block it. To deliver and implement these reforms we will need a Chairman who will lead, not just manage; someone with the charisma to take the voluntary party on a journey many of its members will be reluctant to make, and to finally deliver those exciting reforms that gave so many of us hope before they sank in the grey-suited mediocrity of the past three years.

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