Earlier this week ConservativeHome revealed the sad news of job losses at CCHQ, combined with a pay and hiring freeze. Over recent days we have learnt that the financial situation facing the party is worsening.
To paraphrase George Osborne (and Fraser Nelson in the News of the World) the Tory leadership did not fix the party's finances during the good economic times and are now facing very difficult decisions as a consequence.
Fraser suggests that overall income is down by 10%, that the number of £50,000 donors may have halved and that David Cameron has personally authorised up to £2m of extra expenditures, none included in the budget for the year.
The credit crunch is obviously not Conservative Party's fault but the effect would have been more limited if there were better financial controls and a more strategic view at CCHQ. Here are some of the issues:
- £500,000 was spent on newspaper and internet adverts earlier this year to launch a 'Friends of the Conservatives' scheme. Few Friends have been recruited and many believe that that money could have been much better spent. There are many other harder-to-cost examples of controversial, big ticket expenditures.
- Very high-paying positions at CCHQ continue to be filled by closed process of appointment rather than via open selection.
- Almost nothing has been done to raise money via the internet. More than £250,000 spent on the recent revamp of conservatives.com did nothing to change that.
- CCHQ are repressing the publication of membership data but it is feared that numbers have fallen by at least 17,000. Although members can receive some financial benefits through an affinity scheme there are no other benefits from the centre from being a Tory member.
- Job cuts are falling disproportionately on the external relations department, responsible for long-term relationship-building with women, ethnic minorities, business and other third parties. This department, if well-run, could be the source - not only of vital third party endorsements and policy intelligence - but also a generation of new supporters and donors.
I know there will be some readers who think that these issues shouldn't be discussed but the culture of secrecy at CCHQ - and the consequent lack of accountability - explain, in part, why these mistakes have been repeated again and again over recent years.