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Jeremy Middleton's proposals on how to regenerate the voluntary party

by Paul Goodman

Jonathan wrote this morning about Jeremy Middleton's analysis of the state of the voluntary party and promised that more on his proposals as to how the voluntary party can be regenerated would follow.

Here is a summary of them.

Jeremy Middleton's document sets out a series of key principles as follows -

"All decisions that can be taken locally, should be taken locally, as it is local units that are best placed to take local decisions and because delegating power encourages personal responsibility and the development of leadership skills."

Key responsibilities that should be held locally include:

  1. Selecting local election candidates (and most importantly, on occasion, deselecting them)

  2. Selecting Parliamentary candidates, off a centrally approved list, and in line with guidelines approved by the Board

  3. Party discipline, including recommendations for suspensions, expulsions, and Supported Status applications

  4. Party organisation including mergers and groupings."

It then moves on to make five proposals -

  • "To link Political Campaigning and Social Action and make them the mission and purpose of Local Associations...We propose that all Associations adopt the Campaign Team model and set up Social Action Teams and new Policy Forums."

The document says that Associations should be encouraged "to create a standing Campaign Team, appoint a Social Action Co-ordinator in the Team, appoint a Policy Forum Co-ordinator in the Team and invite the Campaign Team leader to join the Executive"; that Area Teams should be encouraged to "appoint an Area Social Action Co-ordinator and a Policy Forum Co-ordinator to offer extra help, guidance and support to local Associations", and adds: "Conservative Headquarters to provide appropriate professional support from the Centre to service a national network of Social Action Teams and Policy Forums".

  • To help Associations Broaden their Appeal in their Communities by involving more people including Parliamentarians, Councillors and new supporters...We propose that local Associations set out to involve new people, and that they embrace technology to help manage performance and to reach out into local communities.

The paper suggests encouraging local Associations "to involve all those with an interest in the Conservative cause in their Campaign Teams" and to "encourage Campaign Teams to embrace the latest electronic campaigning methods especially; "to attract new people to leadership roles" and "to adopt Key Performance Indicators, as in target seats".  This section also says: "The National Convention to launch a “Campaigning Action Fund” to provide financial support for development initiatives" and 'the Party Board to reconfirm that Local Associations run themselves within the rules set by the Board".

  • To Help Area Teams deliver Best Practice to their Associations.

The document says that "the Area Team should be closest to local Associations and is best placed to disseminate best practice to Local Associations; that they should "be encouraged to offer expertise in a wide range of skills"; "be able to access the management information about the performance of all their Associations available through MERLIN", "play a critical role ensuring that the infrastructure of the Voluntary Party is fit for purpose"; "include talent spotting as one of their roles" and "have more authority in some areas – for example Area Chairmen should be empowered to take difficult decisions with non-performing Associations using the full power of the Party Board".

  • To Empower Regional Teams to Create a Culture of Accountability, Responsibility and Expectation

The paper reports that "our objective is to help Regional Teams oversee a change in mindset and ensure that their region is focussed on effective political and social action".  It recommends that these teams should be encouraged "to build teams with the right skill set for their Area"; adopt key performance indicators as in target seats, and "to ‘headhunt’ capable people and fast track or co-opt them".  It also suggests "establishing budgets for all Regions in the North and consider for other Regions".

  • To provide the professional support needed

The document says that "a step jump in performance demands a significant reallocation of resources", including "the creation of a Voluntary Party Office to build a large outward-looking Voluntary its heart would be a Senior Professional who will lead the programme to grow and develop an outward-looking voluntary organisation...A field force of campaigners would report to this senior professional". 

It adds that "the Campaign Centres need to be retained and new ones developed"; that the "senior professional should work particularly closely with the Chairman of the National Convention to lead the programme of change that is needed. All staff should continue to report directly through their line management to the Chief Executive as currently.

However, "the Senior Professional should also report to the Chairman of the National Convention on a dotted line basis"..."Similarly Field Directors should also work closely with their allocated Regional Chairman".  "In addition, the volunteer organisation in the country needs a new level of professional support from the Centre to focus on the most important objectives and to drive meaningful change."

"This proposal does not assume any increase in costs – it does assume that staff and associated costs are reassigned to the Voluntary Party Office...This is a serious financial commitment, but it is made with existing resources...There is one proposal that is incremental, the creation of a ‘Campaign Action Fund’. This will operate on the same lines as the incremental funds distributed to target seats who produce a credible plan – and ensures that the money is well spent."

National Convention members have been invited to approve, disapprove and comment on the proposals it contains during a consultation between now and late September.  Subject to their feedback, along with input from the Party Board and the Prime Minister, final proposals are scheduled to be presented to a special conference open to Members of the National Convention in Birmingham on October 2nd, the day before Party Conference proper begins.


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