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So Cameron is blackmailing Associations... Well, this Party is definitely going in a "New Direction'. Did Cameron mention this during his election campaign?

Even Labour hasnt stopped to these lows. This is a shocking political move and I hope Associations will not back down to this. This is blackmail, plain and simple.

"and selecting the right candidate."

What's that supposed to mean? Id it directed at associations choosing local candidates instead of A listers?

Scandalous.

The owner of a hugely valuable franchise exerting some sort of quality control over the franchisees?

This is not the kind of party my Association Chairman fought for in the Boer War...

There are some consituencies where elected Conservative councillors might reflect on whether their policies are helpful to the PPC. If lack of funding focuses the mind I am for it

"So Cameron is blackmailing Associations... Well, this Party is definitely going in a "New Direction'."
James, I have had a look at Iain Dale and Mark Clarke's blogs. They both seem very impressed and positive about what they saw and heard today. David Cameron and CCHQ are NOT trying to blackmail anyone, but what they do seem to want is an organised, dedicated election fighting machine which is fit to really take on the REAL opposition at the next GE.
You seem to want to extrapolate any hint of negativity and turn into some sort of them and us battle. It is Labour and the Libdems which we need to be fighting in the constituencies not each other. This is a party preparing the groundwork to fight a GE not some playground joust.

The more I think about this, the worse it sounds. The candidate bit was just an example. He must include policy along with the relationship between CCO and Associations, changes to internal rules.

The most disturbing part of this is the implied threat that if we do not support the New Conservative Party, the Conservatives will literally abandon us and leave us to our own resources, knowing that we cant cope without outside help. The Conservative Party is threatening to abandon its own local Parties, the very people that helped this Party get to where it is today.

If Cameron want a fight over the future of this Party, he can have one. But he should never underestimate the Associations.

James, I think thats a bit strong. The big doners give money centrally and in effect are giving it because they are buying into the strategy of CCHQ.

Lord Ashcroft himself has spent a lot of his own money and wants to see that his and other doners money is well spent. Why should they expect anything less?

James, to late your off and running and you have turned it into war based on what??? Certainly not what you have read on the two blogs of people who actually attended.
The most disturbing part of this is the implied threat that if we do not support the New Conservative Party, the Conservatives will literally abandon us and leave us to our own resources. Um, would that be the party led by David Cameron with which you have been totally fulsome in your support? Not!

No problem with what is proposed in theory.

But what "central support" have they provided in the past?

Putting 3 weak constituencies together could make the combined 3 even weaker. Ever looked at merger success?

Most of the required activity is at the Branch level and a new "super centre" could make things worse.

The real problem is that the big rich constituencies that have safe seats just hoard resources. No change there then.....

Damn straight we should be fighting the Lib Dems and Labour and that I have been doing since I got interested in politics. I cant wait for the election proper next year. I love nothing more than looking at a speech or a press release by Labour or the Lib Dems and tearing the whole thing apart.

The simple fact is, Cameron is threatening to remove support from Associations which dont go along with his strategy. Thats blackmail.

It was an excellent event and Lord Ashcroft and his team are to be congratulated.

With regards to, "shape up or ship out" I think it is more accurate to say that what was being proposed was that Associations can either professionalise their organisation, for which considerable help and support is available, or shun what is on offer, get left behind and "wither on the vine".

"Um, would that be the party led by David Cameron with which you have been totally fulsome in your support? Not!"

I support the Party and what it truly stands for. I do not stand for the leadership or the new policies and other changes they have brought in. Ive been a member for 3 years and have campaigned in three elections. My loyalty to the Party isnt in question.

James Maskell, you are so, so wrong. Mark and I were there. You weren't. It's got nothing to do with blackmail. It has everything to do with being professional.

So if Associations wont "professionalise", they wont get CCO support, financial or otherwise...how is it not blackmail. Its forcing change with a threat.

I also have a report on the conference on my CF focused blog:

http://markclarke.blogspot.com/

I said I would report back after the Chingford Dinner and my question to Mr Cameron on opening some winnable seats to the full list of Approved Parliamentary Candidates.

His response was that once a sufficient number fo those candidates who were felt to be under-represented were selected, future selections would be opened out to everybody.

On the point of this thread, it is wrong to say the Labour Party wouldn't stoop this low, they've been doing it for years.

It is about time the "voluntary" side of the party organised itself to deliver across a far wider area and stopped being focused on its own 1,000+ ward majority here and then losing by tens of votes just down the road.

I for one would be very happy if the centre would add some pressure on behalf of those of us who want to see a more streamlined and organised operation, rather than the rag-bag of grotty offices above shops and wheezy risographs we have to deal with right now.

"I support the Party and what it truly stands for. I do not stand for the leadership or the new policies and other changes they have brought in."
And there is the problem, you can't successfully do one without the other, it just does not work. And if you have not learnt that over the last 15 years then you must have missed the huge electoral disaster of not just producing policies which did not attract enough voter's but also the huge damage that infighting has done the party. I would say that the disunity within the party has been the biggest single negative which has stopped us being to get above 200 seats in Westminster.

James 22:04

Quite frankly if they won't they aren't much use to the Party.

Emotions aside, look at successful business models, supermarkets for example, a local store manager has certain freedoms in the running of their store, however they are expected to work within the overall business strategy, if they don't they, not unreasonably, get "short shift".

I must confess that when I became actively involved with the Party, and coming from a business background, I couldn't believe in general how amateurish it all was, albeit that the people involved were all well meaning and genuinely trying their best, but they simply need help.

What is being proposed is a breathe of fresh air, bring it on that is what I say, as in the end we and our country will be the winners!!!

This is just about professionalism, plain and simple. Its not anything to do with blackmail. There is at last common sense emanating from the centre of the Party. This will actually give more autonomy to candidates and associations so long as they work hard, but thats right, none of us want to be carrying people,

Matt

Paul, Mark or Iain, you all seem very impressed and positive about the event today. Would not ask you for any further detail, but wonder if your own impressions seemed to be shared by other's who attended the event?

I wasn't able to attend the meeting but we do have to become far more professional in the way we operate as local associations.

Wandswoth's three association's calculated that £10,000 a year of their members subs went straight to the local council in business rates. They formed a Borough Group about 3-4 years ago, centralised their operations in one constituency office and can now employ 1.4 professional agents but secretarial assistance plus decent printing equipment etc. The Associations continue in being and two have leased their headquarters out and raise funds. The three associations now have an extra £70k a year and a much more professional approach. The Borough Grouping Chairman is always from a different constituency to that of the Deputy.

As a constituency chairman in Bromley I would welcome a similar approach in our borough. At present we have three constituencies - one agent, three HQs plus part time secretaries and a variety of printing machines. Shortly we will have a fourth constituency with an interest when Lewisham West adds three Bromley wards and becomes Lewisham West & Penge. They, too have an HQ but cannot afford any staff.

As it becomes more and more difficult to get active volunteers who will deliver leaflets and as they way in which organisations communicate changes to greater use of websites, texting etc so we need to ensure we can afford the professional staff trained to do this.

It all seems quite reasonable to me, if an association can't stick behind its candidate and are refusing to listen to memos about the organisation of the constituency and campaigning, why should they get additional funds?

These are, after all, attempts for additional resources as opposed to basic ones. It surely goes without saying that the additional cash should go to the best associations who should put up a good fight to get their candidate elected.

"Paul, Mark or Iain, you all seem very impressed and positive about the event today. Would not ask you for any further detail, but wonder if your own impressions seemed to be shared by other's who attended the event?"

My deputy Chairman, Claire Palmer, has posted a review on her blog and she also had a positive experience.

http://claire.clairepalmer.net/blog

Can someone give me a straight answer?
If a Constituency does not choose a candidate who fits in the profile of the Candidates Board 'A'list then they will lose funding even if the person they choose can lead to a Tory victory.Is that what they are saying?? Give a straight answer to a straight question?
Is this another case of making up it up as they go along. Methinks I wouldn't let them run a sweetie shop if this is what they are about. If we don't win the next election and it's by no means certain then this lot will have destroyed what is left or the Real Tory Party and it will never recover, I am willing to listen to anyone who may disagree but it had better be good.I hear from Tories all over the Country who think that the leadership have lost their marbles. Hug a Hoodie! Try to understand teenage thugs as it really isn't their fault. Whoever believes this rubbish should join the Lib Dems. They have a lot of similar ideas. Leave the Tory Party to real Tories.

I am far from being a fully fledged Cameroon, and I have posted here many times about the autonomy of local Associations and the A List. However, with regard to this particular issue I do not think we can be too critical.

Basically what CCHQ are saying is, "if you want us to pay your bills you spend the money the way we tell you to."

The Associations objecting have a choice - raise your own funds and become self-sufficient.

If the marginal seats, my own included, are happy to accept central funding then we cannot object when the paymaster demands some control over how that money is spent.

As for "groupings" I fully endorse Nicholas Bennett's comments above. Providing CCHQ are not going to force "federation agreements" upon unwilling Associations I cannot see a problem. Pooling bricks and mortar and establishment costs will maximise efficiency and release resources for campaigning.

If it wasn't for such an arrangement my own marginal seat would have ceased to function many years ago. By sharing an office and "buying in" Agent and administrative services from the neighbouring safe seat our small team are able to focus our efforts on campaigning rather than fund-raising.

Sandbagger - It really irritates me when people who apparently are Conservatives misrepresent what other Conservatives have said. DC to my knowledge didn't use the phrase "Hug A Hoodie", the phrase originated when Labour wanted to attack the speech. So why would you want to repeat it?

And speaking as someone who was mugged earlier in the year I wholeheartedly agree with what DC did say which was: "people want their politicians to ask the question: 'What is it that brought that young person to commit that crime at that time? What's the background to it, what are the long-term causes of crime?"

Calm down James the proposals are not blackmail. The Leadership are only trying to make sure that members and officers of local Associations are well trained on how to win and retain seats.

I am convinced we can win more seats in all elections by working smarter and by following the advise that we receive from our central election teams. James I do not see any secret agenda here.


'The Conservative Party is threatening to abandon its own local Parties, the very people that helped this Party get to where it is today'

There is another competitor in the market place so if the Tory Toffs don't want them there is another home for these people.
U*** know who.........

"There is another competitor in the market place U*** know who........."
This will be the bunch that think its okay to use the tragic disaster in Darfur in a supposedly "satirical" spoof. No thanks.

Great event yesterday. Professional and purposeful.

The "right candidate" reference was about picking someone who will work hard - nothing more.

In fact it was made quite clear that the local campaign will have less central direction than ever before. "We will trust the Candidate", was a central message. Candidates can expect less prescription from the centre but more resource. The only quid pro quo was that Associations and Candidates are expected to show and support total professionalism. So - more freedom but also more accountability.

I think Off Message 08:29 is very much "On Message" and accurately summarises the discussions as I recall them yesterday.

"we should be fighting the Lib Dems and Labour and that I have been doing since I got interested in politics. I cant wait for the election proper next year."

I totally agree James. Beating Labour in Brighton is the reason I still belong to the Party. CCHQ's obsession with "proffesionalism" is laughable. Volunteers are just that not "proffesional" politions. Just leave associations to get on with canvassing etc and getting voters out on the day.

Odd isnt it Cameron is proposing localism, with local councils taking control of financial matters and policy, yet he is taking this away from our own associations?

It is not for CCHQ to decide who to help, it is there responsibility to help all candidates win elections, not just people they want. If it goes the way they want we are worse than Labour, and have an effective dictatorship within the party. Communism the Conservative way.

There is a clear need to professionalise some local parties and wield the stick to some.

Many Associations are excellent with committed people running right through it. A significant number of others in target areas are basket cases infested with people running them for years who are utterly incompetent, with councillors who don't care if the PPC wins because their only concern is their own ward. These basket cases tho' won't accept they are a problem which makes things worse.

Of course, those in good seats take umbrage about the 'stick' but they don't need it and won't get it.

Ed- can we start a competition on the worst Association covering a target seat?

As someone else who attended the event I left with a real buzz. As an officer in a association that fits too many of the stereotypes of the failing association that were presented, I feel excited at the possibility that we could break out of the vicious circle of not having enough active members to fulfill our objectives.

There is a lot of resistance within the party to structural change. One of my pet hates is the phrase 'we've always done it like that'. It isn't an answer to anything, its an excuse.

As to not funding associations who refues to change. If I was a big party donor, giving tens or hundreds of thousands to the party, I'd be absolutely furious if it was given to an association that was still insisting on trying to do things the way they'd done them since the 50s.

Drew. SW London,4/11 21.39.
On the mark, subtle, very funny. It takes a beat after reading your post to realise that you have a dinosaur in your midst, and points up the challenge that CCHQ have. But CCHQ must be careful to retain the baby, when throwing out the bath water.

"with councillors who don't care if the PPC wins because their only concern is their own ward."

Klamm, you very seldom find a PPC win a seat where we don't have the ward councillors. So we need the Clls to conscentrate on winning their seats however much MPs look down their noses at local politions.

Hooray, the harsh facts of life have now been spelt out to the party.

Very true Alison Anne Smith (11.47).

Whilst many MP's and some PPC's look down their noses which is obviously wrong, there are many councillors who do not understand or care about the importance of forming the next government.

I remember in 2005 we never saw some councillors and when we knocked on one door in the campaign a week before polling, we realised it was a county councillors' house. He wife said he was out playing golf. He hadn't done a thing since the PPC was selected.

It is not every councillor of course, but Association's should get the message that this should not be tolerated.

John @22:08 I for one would be very happy if the centre would add some pressure on behalf of those of us who want to see a more streamlined and organised operation, rather than the rag-bag of grotty offices above shops and wheezy risographs we have to deal with right now.

Couldn't agree with you more. Having been involved with the Party in a voluntary and paid capacity for over 30 years I have not felt as much optimism from one of these conferences for years. Michael Ashcroft is firm in his resolve and good on him.

Being involved with 'safe' and 'target' seats, the contrast could not be more different. Lots of the volunteers in our targets want to win; they know what they have to do, they just need some help, either money or bodies. Some of our safe seats frankly couldn't give a damn and can't be bothered to do any campaigning whatsoever 'we always do well so we don't need to spend money on leaflets' (or in some cases fundraising either) and as others have said, sit on property and huge bank accounts, racking up huge majorities.

It's about time that someone put the record straight - some of us have been saying the same for years and are very pleased it has now been said.

Groupings can work as well as fail. With the few agents we now have it means that resources can be pooled, good admin staff employed to deal with things like membership renewal, draw reminders etc and agents can do what they are paid to do which is manage and run election campaigns rather than act as glorified administrators in some cases. Before anyone comments, I am not dissing agents here, just know that some are frustrated with what their officers think the role of an agent is!

rallies @ 10:51: It is not for CCHQ to decide who to help, it is there responsibility to help all candidates win elections.

Of course CCHQ has a responsibility for all but targeting is not targeting if you give it to everyone! It was clearly expressed who will get help, the list is organic (I hate that phrase) and is a moveable feast. There are seats that have a much better of chance of being a CON GAIN that others, and those must be helped and Associations have to help too and that is what Michael Ashcroft was saying. Some may call it blackmail, I call it moving into the 21st century.

Alison @ 10:42 – I ask the question, why can’t volunteers for the Conservative Party be ‘professional’. You are treated professionally by a volunteer in a charity shop. What’s the difference? It’s still voluntary activity whether for a recognised charity or a political party. Training is available if anyone wants it.

And sadly we can’t ‘just leave associations to get on with canvassing etc and getting voters out on the day.’ I’d be happy if associations did just that. They don’t, hence the strategy now in place.

(Sorry for the length but I am so annoyed with some of the comments here. It makes me wonder if everyone does actually want to win.)

How does the term "strategy" end up meaning professionalisation? I think some people are missing the wording of the quote here. No one has a problem with being professional. Why would anyone object to it? Associations object to being controlled by CCO so much. Thats the real problem.

A theoretical question here, if target seats have their funding and other support withdrawn, will they still have to cough up affiliation fees and other payments to CCO?

Target seats don't have any funding so "their" funding can't be withdrawn. If you mean the money which some people are putting up to help those who want to work hard to win then, yes, that may not be given but changes nothing else about relationships between Associations and the centre.

I really do need a new name as I seem to be about the most On Message person on here. I'll have to start a thread on the things I don't agree with (apart from James Maskell's constant and, in this case, totally unjustified whinging).

The most on message person is Jack Stone. You are close, but not quite there.

Just realising the theoretical question was complete bollox. I take it back. Ive been suffering the past few days from a nasty cold and I havent been shooting on all cylinders...woke up this morning looking like something out of Michael Jackson's Thriller.

My gripe with the word proffesional is it was used against my association by the last PPC, who then went on to lose and blame her own inadequacies on the Associations alledged lack of it. It seems ro give PPCs an easy excuse for not having done better.

Alison - if that is the case it may be wrong but I do not know the PPC or Association involved so cannot comment on your own situation. However in PPCs' defence I do know of cases where hardworking PPCs have not had the backup they need or should expect from the Association. Note Gavin Barwell's comment yesterday about money being kept for a 'rainy day'.

My gripe is with volunteers who use the fact they are volunteers to act in a totally unprofessional manner to the public and staff in Association offices. Not having professional staff employed by volunteers might be a step in the right direction but think that subject may need a thread all of its own!

"Anon" are you an Agent by any chance ?!

I was very impressed by what I saw and heard yesterday. Michael Ashcroft is very professional, and he is just the man for the job. This does not mean we have to swallow every message coming out of CCHQ, but we must work together if we are to win. The help is there for those associations that need it, but it is still possible to be independent, provided you can manage the finances and carry out a political campaign.

Alison - No I'm not, just sticking up for the little people. Not sure I have the patience to deal with the bad employee working conditions, grotty offices, low pay, unpaid overtime and no thanks but blame when it doesn't all go right. I do know some and the stories I've heard are shocking. Association staff, org secs, agents and admin staff are on the front line. A fact that everyone seems to forget and no one seems to cares about.

But this is off the point. Back to yesterday ....

James Maskell. If the Constituencies could raise their own funds they could do their own thing. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

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