Just before Party Conference I wrote an open letter to Conservative Chairman Francis Maude about the right of party members to rank Tory candidates for the next European Elections. Francis replied yesterday with a request for your views. He's clearly concerned that the anger that many activists feel towards MEPs like Christopher Beazley - who have voted for a greater European dimension to history and (indirectly) for the euro, for example - will boil over into an ugly reselection process. Whether CCHQ keeps the current selection process may depend upon which of the following two dangers they fear most...
- The risk of a very negative reaction from MEPs who end up with unelectable positions on the next European Parliamentary lists because of grassroots anger;
- The unhappiness of grassroots Conservatives who forfeit the right to effectively oust sitting MEPs who are out of touch with the party's dominant Eurosceptic outlook (and the gift that will give to UKIP).
Thank you for your open letter about selection of candidates for the European parliament, which you posted just before the Party Conference. I totally understand your concerns and there is some preliminary thinking going on about whether any changes are needed. I would only raise one question at this stage, and would appreciate comments and suggestions. How do we avoid these selection processes from becoming divisive and acrimonious? Of course there will be differences in the various candidates’ stance towards the EU, and it’s right that those making the choices are fully aware of the candidates’ views. But there is a big prize for the Party in this process being conducted in a manner that is open and honest, while remaining civilised and courteous. I suspect that this is not really to do with the exact details of the process. I guess it’s more about how we all behave, and we can all therefore simply decide for ourselves that we will take shared responsibility, to coin a phrase, for making this a process that enhances rather than damages our Party’s reputation.
All the best
So that's Francis' question: How do we avoid these selection processes from becoming divisive and acrimonious? I'm not sure that we can avoid there being some heartache but does anyone have any bright ideas?