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A response to respondents to: The Conservative Party is dying on its feet. But whose Party is it anyway?

by Paul Goodman

Last week, I wrote a two-part series about the current state of the voluntary party called: "The Conservative Party is dying on its feet.  But whose Party is it anyway?"  John Strafford also wrote a well argued, well thought through and detailed article here.

At the end of the first article I wrote -

"What really matters isn't what I think, but what ConservativeHome readers think: this is an instance of seeking the wisdom of crowds.  Perhaps you believe that membership can be revived, and have ideas about how to do it.  Perhaps you think that the whole concept's outdated.  Perhaps you don't care - at least, not in sufficient numbers to change anything, presuming anyone wants to in the first place.  We will see."

Having asked for comments, it would be wrong not to read them and then respond.  Here's my assessment, for better or worse -

  • It's sometimes clear from comments posted below articles that readers take one clear majority view of an issue - for example, when Tim campaigned for Party members to retain their right to vote during the last leadership election.
  • There seems to be a consensus that Associations aren't always effective, open, politically focused and generally up to the mark.
  • There was general criticism of membership renewal process and of Merlin in particular.
  • There was backing for putting up the Party's Constitution on ConservativeHome.
  • There was some support for more membership involvement in policy discussion and formation.
  • There was also some support for training programmes for Association Officers.
  • Otherwise, I didn't detect a consensus - a clear majority view - for a particular programme of change:  in particular, there was no groundswell of support for party democracy: i.e: the election of the Party Chairman.
  • There were divided views on the centralisation/localisation debate, open primaries.
  • I kept an eye open for responses mentioning particular places, and those named included Bexhill and Battle, Croydon Central, Enfield North, Harrogate, and Newport West.
  • It wasn't all bad news.  The response from Harrogate, for example, stressed new ways of campaigning - that non-member leafletters (400 were cited) can achieve a great deal.  Other comments claimed that the arrival of a new candidate/MP had lifted performance.  The figure of 1500 members in Croydon Central was cited.  There was enthusiasm among some younger people who posted for the use of new social media to attract new forms of support.

It goes without almost without saying that there was both criticism and support for the current leadership.

Canvassing comments was useful.  Polling would be even more so, and ConservativeHome will be undertaking some in a regular monthly survey based on the questions in the second part of my series.  Tim will also be writing about membership shortly, and I'll return to the matter in due course.  I'm very grateful to all those who responded with ideas and suggestions.


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