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Well said Tim.

As an enthusiastic moderniser, I am deeply worried that this 'plan' by the National European Forum is little more than an attempted power grab by a few senior members of the voluntary party who wish to insulate sitting MEPs (with who they enjoy cordial relationships) from the bracing wind of the democratic process.

It's precisely the discredited form of layered democracy that Lady Thatcher used to flay the trade unions for in the early 1980s.

Even if David Cameron wants to pick a fight with the Conservative Party (I'm not convinced he does) then removing democratic rights from Party members in order to effect a stitch up for jobs in Brussels is not a smart way to go about it.

Hear, hear Tim well put. David Cameron would be foolish to ignore you I think and he certainly isn't that!
What happens to our MEPs is a talismanic issue for many Conservative activists far above the real importance of these people.
Speaking only for myself there are a number of MEPs I really admire (Van Orden, Heaton Harris, Helmer etc) but a few that I do not. If I as an ordinary footsoldier have absolutely no say in who my MEPs are likely to be I might be less motivated to give up so much of my precious free time to campaign.

How can any sitting MEP (be he or she ever so capable) have the arrogance to assume that no newcomer could possibly do the job any better? That's what the NEF proposals imply. Let all the MEPs stand on their record before the entire local membership and let's keep the door open for new talent.

I hope the Board give these proposals the short shrift they deserve. The day they are adopted will be the day that my Party membership card is returned, in very small pieces.

Not only is this proposal wrong in itself, it's also a litmus test.

If this proposal goes through, then we can be quite sure that our MEPs will still be in the EPP after 2009. If it doesn't, then they won't be.

This NEF move should be called OPERATION PROTECT BEAZLEY and is designed to insulate the eurofanatics from the wrath of members. If they are kept in place I will certainly not vote for any Tory MEPs who are on the list with them.

We need to select a slate of candidates that is fit for purpose. I agree with everything you say. A timely intervention by the sounds of things, Tim.

This is crucial. UKIP did very well at the last Euro-election, mainly because Conservatives thought that voting UKIP was the only way to tell our party what we really think about the EU.

If federalist MEPs are allowed to carry on unhindered, AND this happens because Party bigwigs (seen as being poodles of Central Office even if they aren't) have the final say on this, then we're handing UKIP a golden opportunity.

In each region, we need to see enough candidates to cover all the seats; sitting MEPs to have the right to be there unless they've misbehaved terribly, but the membership to do the ranking.

Tim: have you got anything planned if Dave ignores your letter?

Any further developments on this?


"Maude Tells EPP Supporting MEPs They’re Finished"

"Tory Party Chairman Francis Maude has sensationally said that any MEP who fails to commit to signing up to the new European Grouping of right of centre MEPS will be precluded from standing under the Conservative banner at the next Euro elections. In a CHALLENGE THE CHAIRMAN interview with Tory Radio’s Jonathan Sheppard. Here’s the relevant extract…

Francis Maude: I think it would be very odd, given that David Cameron has made a clear commitment that there will be a new grouping after 2009 elections, if we were selecting candidates who were anything less than completely committed to joining whatever grouping the leader of the party negotiated.
Jonathan Sheppard: So we would want any candidates to back the new grouping
Francis Maude: That almost goes without saying."

Tim, in a rare turn on ConservativeHome you have managed to find a party issue where all sides agree.

Party members and activists are driven by engagement in the political process; the feeling that it’s possible to make a difference and to make their views heard. Diluting their voice dilutes their engagement, and dilutes the Party.

Our party chairmen and grandees must remember that it’s the members, not they, who truly own the Party. The members must directly choose their representatives.

"Tim, in a rare turn on ConservativeHome you have managed to find a party issue where all sides agree."

Oh Mark, don't tempt fate.

You provide the red rag and Alex Forsyth will undoubtedly provide the bull.

If the Conservative Party hierarchy strips the membership of its voting rights (or imposes some insulting form of 'guided' democracy) then Party members should publicly proclaim their refusal to campaign or vote for Conservative candidates at the Euro elections.

This is not a dismissable offence, as long as members do not proclaim their intention to campaign or vote for any other party. What they may choose to do in the privacy of the polling booth is up to them.

The key thing is that this must NOT be a Eurosceptic issue - it's a grassroots democracy issue. How can the Party have any credibility when it talks about localism if, at the same time, it is centralising control and removing rights from ordinary members.

Some in the Party hierarchy would love the chance to frame the debate as right-wing Europhobic nutters v moderate, modern Cameron. We should refuse to play into that narrative. Instead we should threaten to make a very public fuss along the following lines:

"It's a Westminster fix. If David Cameron is prepared to take power away from local Tories in order to rig elections for his feather-bedded MEP cronies then imagine what he'll do to your community. Tory localism? You're having a laugh!"

The Party hierarchy were burned by the last grassroots rebellion - on leadership election voting rights - and this should be presented as round 2 of that struggle.

Well done Tim!

It is vital that members have a say in who will be standing at the 2009 European Elections.

I can already hear Mr Undemocracy himself, Don Porter, Chairman of the Board, on the 'phone to David Cameron's office demanding that he drafts the reply to this open letter. Let us not forget that it was the Party Board who authored the plan to disenfranchise the membership in the leadership election. They will rubber chicken stamp the NEF stitch-up.

Excellent letter Tim, I agree wholeheartedly.I also agree wholeheartedly with those above who rightly identify this as a major issue about party democracy and separate from any views that one might hold on Europe.It is vitally important that we keep the membership's right to be involved in the choice of both their elected representatives and Conservative candidates for public office. Anything else is unacceptable in a democratic political party and there is simply no genuine objective justification for the NEF's proposals.

Extraordinary how, nearly 200 years after the Great Reform Act, some Tory Party grandees still pine for the ethos of the Rotten Borough. At least people like Sir Robert Walpole didn't insult the voters by pretending that they took any interest in their views.

Couldn't agree more. Well said.

While you're at it, David (Cameron), how about a commitment that a Conservative government would make the Euro elections first-past-the-post again?

I hope that the Party will resist PR with all its might.

Excellent letter Tim.

No wonder the enemies of democracy want to silence CH!

Did you see my 16:11 post Mr Editor?

Excellent letter Tim

THIS is exactly what CH is for! I think Cameron is a better political animal than some think and it's clear to me he is serious about reshaping the party to better reflect the party's views on Europe. This proposal won't get through.

The day Caroline Jackboot stops being my MEP will be a very enjoyable!

Wow again! Thanks for everyone's support and for those who have emailed me with campaigning ideas. Sorry not to reply to you Umbrella man but I'll wait for a reply from Mr Cameron before deciding any next steps. All I can promise is that any retreat from democracy won't be acceptable.

A great letter that has my full support.

This thread cheers me. I wonder if all of our MEPs will be equally so delighted to see this wonderful expression of grassroots party democracy?

I'd love to see some support for this from our MEPs/prospective MEPs.

The creation of deselected MEP martyrs will inflame opinion, and boost our political opponents. It will be another round like Helmer's de-whipping all over again.

Tim's right to express opposition to this sliding manoevre before it hurts Cameron.

Funnily enough I received an anonymous attack on MEP Watch at my blog yesterday morning. Too ham-fisted to be a Europhile MEP? I'll leave you to decide.

The day Caroline Jackboot stops being my MEP will be a very enjoyable!

Very good. The deselection of every federast "Tory" MEP would be a wonderful outcome.

It won't happen under Cameron, though, and recent events confirm my opinion that Cameron - ghastly as he is - is a puppet of some even more obnoxious string-pullers operating behind the scenes.

I think that by running away at the mouth screaming "deselect the federalists", even if that is the eventual outcome (i.e. to select candidates in tune with Party policy, great shock!) is missing the opportunity raised by Tim's measured and sensible letter.

Instead of immediately threatening to tear up your membership cards if this change isn't delivered, find some political positives (there are plenty) in what you want and sell those.

Opening up candidate selection for the European Parliament is entirely in tune with the way we've brought more openness and transparency to Westminster candidate selections as part of modernising the Party, e.g. open primaries, new selection procedures within associations etc.

We've alresdy said we want to broaden our range of candidates for Westminster and open up the process more. To do the reverse for the EP would be a little perverse. That said, I know that the turn-out in EP elections is low, partly due to democratic deficits, and the EP regions are much larger - coming up with mechanisms to make wider engagement in the selections work well will be challenging, but narrowing it really isn't a consistent option.

Tim's letter is a good reminder to Maude that Party democracy should be fully restored to the ranking procedures for European parliamentary candidates.
At the 2004 elections in the South West region a quarter of the electors who voted for Conservative councillors used the same pencil in the same polling booth to vote for UKIP in the European election.
They did this because they didn't like most of the Tory candidates. This mass defection will not be repeated in 2009 if the members themselves do the candidate selection.

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