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Speaking for myself here, I have a principled stance on our entry to the European Union which was a con.

It is still a con and any party not seeing it as a con and wanting to carry on conning me will not get my support or my vote.

As for the long list of domestic problems failing to be tackled in any clear and concise way, particularly with the economy, unless I see a Conservative Party which understands the need to shout for tax cuts, get back our EU rebate and our veto and scrap the Lisbon Treaty, then I'll not be supporting the party at all for these are all Tory principles and this party ( currently ), is showing anything but that.

For me, it all comes down to Europe and lower taxes. Sort that out and you'll get me and I think many others giving more support.

Replace Cameron with someone who understands the true needs of England.

There are several issues that need to be tackled but the drop has been caused by two main factors; Increased charges and Lack of Member benefits.

The charges had to go up as the membership had been inflated through many members paying a pittance and costing more in administration.

The issue to be tackled is what Tim highlights, the lack of benefits in being a member. Which brings us back to the worst Chairman in many years, Caroline Spellman MIA.

If the party could create low cost internal voting systems so that we can 1) elect the "main Board" on a regional basis 2) select all MEPs, 3) decide some policy areas etc etc We could then expect a growing membership. But under Spellman all we can expect is nothing.

I can't actually remember the last time I received any mailing from the Central Party. Emails are all well and good, but maybe some members would prefer to have something to open and read over breakfast - seems like a bit more effort than just an email.

My marginal seat Association can only dream of those numbers. Interestingly we have more people prepared to deliver leaflets than join which is more of a commitment.

The days of mass membership seem to be over. It's possibly due to perfection in markets meaning people are less likely to be able to comprimise to join a party which is a broad church of opinion.

A lack of local identity may be another factor. People moving about a lot are less likely to join a local Association to fight for a local area when they might be moving on in 2 or 3 years.

My two personal bugbears that the Conservative Party shows no sign of tackling adequately are political absorption into EU and lack of proper governance for England under devolution. If the method of my governance were to be sorted then I am amenable to all sorts of suggestions by the experts as to what general policies should then be.

Overall, the Tory problem is that it has no coherent brand image that readily distinguishes it from the competition in the minds of ordinary voters. Establish that, along with the detailed improvements already mentioned above, and things might improve

I did resign because of the grammar school issue but due to my own incompetence (almost worthy of Labour), I failed to cancel a standing order and so found myself to be a member still.

Since then, I have been very concerned - but not to the extent of resignation - about the EU issue (apparently no policy at all) and, more importantly and much closer to being a resigning matter, the utterly dire perfomance of the shadow treasury team.

If we have a hung parliament, rather than a clear win, I guess that the latter point would be the main cause, rather than Brown being the saviour of the world.

Having said that, there is still time to rectify matters. It only needs a reshuffle and a policy or two (based on common sense) and we should still be home and dry. If an election is called for February, that doesn't leave much time!

Is there any comparison to Labour membership figures? My guess is that party membership is on the decline across the board.

But if you want to make membership more fun, give them more power. Make the right to attend Conference as a delegate something you are elected to. Something to fight for. And, in turn, make the Conference a powerful body that elects the Chairman and the Party Board. That would give people a reason to join, go to meetings, and get politically active.

Or, you could do nothing. But you know that nothing would then change.

It is a mixed picture. In Tooting our membership is up 20% vs last year.

How do these figures compare with those from other parties? It is my understanding that membership of all political parties has fallen as people become less keen on becoming actively involved.
One suggestion, which I have made before and I will make again for what it is worth is that we need to re-build The Conservative Pollicy Forum along the lines of the old CPC (Conservative Political Centre). A CPF committee in each Association, regular policy discussions with input passed back to CCHQ and the Leadership and the re-institution of the Summer School!

I joined the Conservative party a few months ago at the same time as a friend joined the Labour party. These are small comparisons, but I received a rubbish plastic membership card, she received a hard, glossy and really nice Labour party membership card. (Although my association has since sent me a nice one).

She receives regular letters from her ministers, MP, etc informing her of what's going on, inviting her to events - I've received one quite nice paper booklet and lots of letters asking for money.

Ofcourse there are ideological issues at stake, but there are some pretty bread and butter things that are wrong too.

The membership administration system needs to be far more effective. It wouldn't necessarily win new members, but it might stop existing ones being lost. My membership needs to be renewed next month, and I've heard nothing (okay, I'll renew anyway - but not everyone is as motivated or organised).

At the beginning of this year, it took a month to issue me with a pro-forma letter and a membership card. Greater efficiency might be a good first step if the party wants to give members the impression it cares whether they are members or not.

"She receives regular letters from her ministers, MP, etc informing her of what's going on, inviting her to events - I've received one quite nice paper booklet and lots of letters asking for money."

In my own Association we get regular mailings - weekly emails on what our candidate is up to, what activity is taking place, canvassing and delivering sessions and social events (of which we have a full programme). Surely it is not rocket science for other Associations to do likewise?

I think that there's an external context that's missing from the above. All voluntary organisations have falling membership (social clubs, charities, village organisations etc.). The Conservative Party is by no means alone. Political parties suffer more acutely because, I would suggest, they're tainted with the twin perceptions of (i) all politicians are in it for themselves and (ii) why bother as you can't make a difference?

Having served as Chairman of Sevenoaks Conservatives from 2002 to 2005, I know how hard many members work to retain and recruit people. Over the period, we just about kept static at 1,250. Probably the biggest issue that we failed to resolve - and as Tim intimates CCHQ were of no help - was what exactly were the benefits of membership?

Another (frightening) thought is if you took these associations and placed them into age categories, would anyone of them have 25% under 35? I doubt it. The demographic timebomb underlies these numbers: most of these members will be dead by the time of the next two general Elections and they aren't being replaced.

The right comparison Alexander is not with Labour now (although the News of the World reports an increase in membership under Gordon Brown) but when Labour was in its pre-office heyday. Then Labour membership soared over 400,000. My fears are for membership numbers once we get in power and start taking difficult decisions.

The porblem is that the conservative party's leadership are disconnected from the grass roots. It is inevitable that people will drift away under these circumstances.

Thank You Very Much Mr Scrooge !

http://rugfish.blogspot.com/2008/12/thank-you-very-much-scrooge.html

Gordon Brown's government is set to place INTEREST on the £500 million it currently advances each year under Emergency Funding to Britain's poorest 1.2 million benefit claimants. It is proposing to place this money into the hands of Credit Union's which operate locally within communities and which charge interest of between 12.68% and 26.8%.

I'm sure we can do better than this plonker !

The NotW figures are likely out of date as the 2008 numbers have yet to be published. Nevertheless, decline in party membership is part of a long term trend and is not unique to any political party.

In an era where there is a lot of public cynicism about politicians, their motives and methods, is it any surprise that few want to join?

We are however coming upon the golden period in the political cycle when there is an election looming and people see reason in supporting us to get rid of Brown and Labour. Crunch or no crunch we have to make the most of this time. In my experience its Associations that can make the most of this whilst CCHQ will just skim the surface, cherry picking and treating recruits as donors, not activists.

Another problem that aflicts CCHQ is that is a lack of much continuity. It is not run as a quasi civil service like it once was, but the instrument of a procession of Westminster MPs and Party Leaders who think they know better, are there for a short time then move on. CCHQ belongs to the Party, not the Party Leader and needs to be run more consistently.

Despite the negativity about politics we can do more than we've done to recruit. But mailshots alone won't do it. Politics is person to person, door to door, peer to peer business at its core.

The party that thinks it can sit in Westminster, prognosticate about the ills of the country and people will flock to its cause is dreaming.

After the war the Party was on its back. It was a new approach to recruitment that built the million member plus party that survived into the eighties. This was done by person to person recruitment (no mailshots or websites back then) either by volunteers or *paid* recruiters called missioners. These missioners were recruited by the party either as cadet agents or from the ranks of the recently retired and did nothing other than canvass and recruit. They did not ask for much, threw up a lot of canvass returns and recruited a lot of members on the doorstep. I once suggested to Archie Norman we look at reviving this - he looked at me as though I were mad.

I see no other way of truly reviving membership other than hitting the streets.

The main problem that I had with my local associaion when I joined 10 years ago was that it seemed only concerned with raising money and arranging social events. There seemed total lack of interest in current policies or any connection with the CCHQ and a curious lack of purpose. So I left.
liz kemp

"There seemed total lack of interest in current policies or any connection with the CCHQ and a curious lack of purpose. So I left".

That reflects the situation in my local association, Liz, unlike my old one in the New Forest where Desmond Swayne organised speakers such as Mark Hoban, Michael Gove etc on a regular basis.

However, to take up one of Tim's main points - to give members a say in formulating certain policies - why can we not set up a ConHome manifesto? We could start with the conservative party line on each policy and then debate it. I bet we could improve on a number of them.

The question is though: would that serve any purpose whatsoever, as one gets the impression that any constructive remarks we make here, remain here and are never taken up by CCHQ?

HF, Mark and Ben L all make good points: paying £25 pounds to receive begging letters is not good value for money.

• The Party needs to set out what it wants to achieve by being a membership organisation and what the contract is between the Party and its members.
• The Party’s weakness is that it is not a cohesive whole but simply a federation of volunteer-run local associations. There is no uniform central administration to manage membership. This means that local associations are wasting a lot of time administering membership when they could be more usefully engaged in campaigning and organising fund raising events.
• There is no centrally-managed direct debit subscription collection. Many former members have simply lapsed but have not had a renewal notice.
• The attitude of some Conservative Parliamentarians and PPCs stinks. Many of them see activists as a source of free labour to be used in the furtherance of their own political careers.
• Money only flows one way: from the associations to the centre. The associations get nothing back in return, not even a Thank You.

All in all, the Party structure is out-dated, having changed very little since the 1950s when the membership ran to several millions. There needs to be a thorough review of the Party structure with some radical changes made to make the Party better administered and more focussed on its objectives. Until there is a decent Party Chairman who recognises this and acts, membership will continue its inexorable decline.

If you want involvement you have to give two things - power and feedback.

Power comes in being able to influence the party and indicate policy directions. Feedback comes from regular updates to the party membership on what the heck is going on and why certain policy decisions have been made.

In these internet days both of these are a snip to organise. I create websites for a living and so I know it could be done and the costs, compared to ordinary campaigning, are peanuts. The biggest change would be ensuring that the party listens to what the membership says.

These days there is no excuse for failing to communicate with your grass-roots.

After the last time this was discussed I made a point of talking to our office in detail to see what the membership position was and of those that have lapsed I asked why. Firstly they said the membership had gone down but not by much in the last 2 or 3 years and that the main reason was people passing away. The issue was age. They said that recruiting at the moment was very difficult due to the recession and using the flexibility on cost was needed.

1. Define what the purpose of the membership is. I'm not sure the party heirarchy has decided what the party is for. The modern fashion is for leaderships to follow the Blair model by defining themselves in opposition to the membership. We need to have more confidence in our party traditions. We are a Parliamentary party. Our MP's are not delegates slavishly following the diktat of the members. The membership should be the first source for feedback on what the party is doing, a source of revenue, a source for policy ideas, a forum to test policy ideas, a pool of future talent for representative office, a source of grass roots information, a link with the community, manpower for elections. Above all, in a culture that is increasingly dominated by left/liberal narratives, myths and assumptions it should provide the democratic space where people of a conservative disposition can meet, discuss and debate conservative priorities.

2. Make the role a worthwile one. Giving people a vote to select candidates is critical. Treat the membership like adults. The decision on MEP's was undemocratic and deeply insulting. The membership is not just an army of door knockers and conference fodder(not everyone likes that). Give us a really strong party chairman who is clearly standing up for the members and who can light conservative beacons all over the country. Make it clear that you listen (our MP's do their just shy about telling everyone they do).

3. Make recruitment a priority and be rigorous about it. Every party employee and member should understand that if we don't recruit we will die out. Every member counts, a £ 15 membership is just as vital as a £ 15,000 one. We talk about a "caravan" society, that is the way the conservative party should be. Is there a clear recruitment plan ? Doesn't look like it to me. You have to ask people to join and to do that you have to know the best way to meet them to ask them. For some its the internet, for some its the t.v., for some its school/university and for others its face to face.

If the Damien Green episode has shown anything it has shown how weak Parliamentary democracy has become. It was an obscene misuse of power, our MPs knew that, our membership knew that but we are too few to make a difference. The vast majority of the country are more concerned about voting irregularities on Strictly Ballroom. This country needs a strong vibrant Conservative party with a large membership. It would be good for democracy, good for the economy and good for our souls.

As Mark Clark said, it's not all bad news. My own North Kent constituency has seen membership increase by 10% each of the past two years.

I suspect much of the nationally reported decline is due to poor administration rather than loss of faith in the party.

Up to two years ago, like most Associations, we sent out membership reminders on a monthly basis. Being a small Association this meant that each month we were creating merge documents from Blue Chip, printing, signing, packing and posting between 10 - 30 letters. At the same time we also had to remember to send out the previous month’s reminders and the second reminder from two months back. The whole thing took up a morning of my (volunteered) time - and I admit that there were months when I was so busy with campaigning or other tasks that I didn't have time to send out the reminders, and even months when there were so few renewals to send that I carried them forward to the following period.

Two year ago, we took a decision (not popular in CCHQ) to introduce a common renewal date for all members. Rather than imposing this on the membership we involved them in the process by explaining what we were planning and why (cost and time savings) and asking them for their views beforehand. We recognised that many members were going to be asked to pay twice within the same 12 month period, so to sweeten the pill we offered a series of discounts (up to 40%) based on which quarter of the year they had previously paid. The consultation produced 5 responses. Four wholly supportive and one (from a long standing member who had previously paid in June) saying she would have been opposed but as we were offering a reduction for the transition year she was happy to proceed.

Last year, the first full year of the new system, apart from 4 members who had either died or moved away, we had a 100% renewal rate and the whole thing was over and done with by March, providing a boost to our cash flow at a time when other fundraising is slow.

We have also introduced a number of changes in how with deal with our members:

(a) Twice a year we send out a newsletter. This is never sent with a financial appeal or raffle tickets as we want our membership to see this as a service not as a tool to encourage them to part with money.

(b) Each year we collate all the Management Committee Reports into a decently produced booklet and we send each member a copy with their AGM notice. This not only adds value but also looks far more professional than the usual pile of risographed paper that many Associations send.

(c) We are holding a complimentary Christmas Drinks Party for all our members and helpers in a private room of a popular local pub / restaurant. Although we are not charging for tickets there will be a raffle which will cover costs.

(d) We abolished the awful sliding scale of membership fees (those dreadful tick boxes: "how much can you afford to pay?" £25 / £50 / £100 etc) and introduced a fixed subscription of £25. We thought this was fair and set a clear value on membership. We also introduced an "additional donation" box on the renewal form as an easy way for people to add an extra donation if they could afford to do so. Last year, the additional donations raised 3x more than we had previously collected through odd member paying a higher subscription rate.

(e) This year, as an additional service, I am producing a directory of local supportive businesses and service providers who will offer a discount for local party members (so far I have a plumber, a decorator, a pet shop, bicycle shop, four restaurants and a hairdresser).

I believe the days of mass membership of political parties are over, but I do not accept that we are in terminal decline. I think we need to adjust the way we deal with our membership and start to make them feel valued rather than just using them as "cash cows" to be milked four times a year for raffles and appeals.

No Mark, not all membership organisations are going down. I'm also a member of the RSPB (signed up its 1,000,000 member a couple of years ago) and the Essex Wildlife Trust which is going well too. There are a nimber of member benefits to be had from both organisations. But what are the benefits of being a member of a political party? Demands for money and time and that's pretty much it.
The Conservative Party should be able to negotiate a range of benefits from organisations because of its size. It could also approach sympathetic industry to give Conservative members benefits in the same way they do their shareholders.
But most of all we could give members the impression (at least) that their views are listened to.
Until we do that membership will continue to fall whoever is leader.

Paul @ 10.38
"All in all, the Party structure is out-dated, having changed very little since the 1950s when the membership ran to several millions"

Actually the Party structure changed radically in 1998 when the National Union of Conservative Associaitons was scrappped and membership of the Party became just that. It is following those changes that CCHQ has become so dictatorial, contemptuous and dysfunctional.

More opportunities for members to comment on alternative policies. Better administration would also help, for the reasons put by "Ben L".

Not too impressed with the frequent requests for money, either. Particularly in view of today's economic climate, perhaps? More regular e-mails would also be worthwhile.

If the Church of England was once the Conservative Party at prayer, then the decrease in the membership of the Conservative Party must be a reflection of the decline of the Church of England.

Neither may be terminal, but the ascendant cynicism and pervasive multiculturalism in the absence of orthodoxy - both Christian and Conservative - is proving corrosive to our democratic heritage and the liberties of the people.

Politics has been removed from the people: democracy has become a façade. One votes, but little changes because politicians no longer have the power to effect change. If ministers do not plead EU competence, they defer to quangos. Since the people cannot affect what happens either within the omnipotent EU or autonomous quangos, they see no reason to vote, and no reason to join a party which is content to perpetuate its own state of relative impotence.

Get CCHQ to remove me from the banned list!

They would have at least one more member!

I probably do more for them than their paid employees!

Our political parties have still not recognised the damage that has been done to politics by the total lack of lea dership shown since 1987.

Cameron has realised the new mood and demand for a 'say' that has in part been facilitated by the internet. What he fails to understand is that we need to move to the next stage, that is to give people a say in policy.

If the Tories want more members they must air the taboo subjects that the electorate want to talk about, that is:

Reduction in public spending
Reduction in taxes to correspond with the above
Massive reduction in bureaucracy and state interfernce
Dismantling of the EU bureacracy

When the Tories articulate these concerns for the people they will find them far more likely to join the party.

Firstly, this article treats the falling Conservative membership as if is purely a Conservative problem - it is happening across the board for political parties.

That said, I do agree that the main issue is - why bother joining? What benefits do you get? I remember being told at the start of this year that we were planning a major new membership drive, coupled with an overhaul of the benefits of membership to give it a real purpose. All we got was the 'friends of the Conservatives' campaign, which was a bit of a damp squib, and no apparent increase in the benefits of being a member.

Regarding Sally's comment about "Surely it is not rocket science for other Associations to do likewise?" Agreed...but - it is very personality driven. Small Associations with limited funds and limited volunteers just don't have the time and resources to put out weekly mailings etc - especially when those limited resources are being used for campaigning, canvassing, leafletting etc.

"How would you revive Tory membership?"

Dig up the graveyards.

The traditional party model is lost and gone forever. Look to the US experience (as Labour seem to be): the Howard Dean "children's crusade" of 2004 set the trend for Obama's titanic effort (and fund-raising) in 2007-8. Note that Howard Dean's "50-state strategy" was also a strong element there. And supporters, when they feel involved, progress to be members.

Dean explained that back in 2005:
""We cannot run 18-state campaigns. We've got to be everywhere... We have to be organized. By the end of this year, we have a goal of having a Democrat in every precinct in America, not every county, but every precinct in America, four paid political organizers in every state in America in 2005. We're not going to have seven-month campaigns for the presidency anymore. We're going to have four-year campaigns... But we're also going to try to get elected people running for the state legislature, people running for city council... We need to do this from top to bottom..."

Does that eliminate the old-style party member? No: again look at the significance of the superdelegates at the Chicago Convention.

So: a recipe:
1. Give at least an illusion of real power to the "primary electors": that gets people aboard. The party dinosaurs will hate that, because it raises the threat of deselection.
2. Restore authority and power to local government. That was the traditional stepping stone to a shot at Westminster. Don't rely on teeny-bopper "political advisers" and "A-list" celebs parachuted into every safe-seat in sight.
3. Democratise, democratise, democratise. Don't demock democracy.

With open primaries and the MEP stitch-up there are no real membership benefits except voting for leader - which was also nearly taken away from us.

Cost is a factor - my association changed to a single date for membership renewals which meant I payed twice in four months. If I was less involved I would have just left the party.

I've read most of these comments with interest.

What I am asking is what works locally to attract new members. The new membership tool kit looks great, but has anyone used it yet?

What strategy have success local associations used to gain members. Do you write to the big houses? Do you run a targeted and timed campaign.

I'm just curious. If people don't want to reply on this thread, they can e-mail me at [email protected]renwick.com

I would tend to agree with David @ 10.29 and I think that Tim's three suggestions, sound very positive.

My area is further east of where David was, and is one of those with an 'aging' population.

I do think that there is a dichotomy in the conservative party, in two areas. The first relates to age, most of the silver-tops live outside urban areas, whereas most younger people live inside, or work in, urban areas, therefore much more connected to what is 'going on'.

The second area where there is a division is between the computer literate, and the non-users of the computer. This is not just a question of age, but tends to show as a question of sex as well. I have met a good number of women who are NOT silver-tops, and sometimes not even retired, who do not 'relate' to the computer yet, and even if they do, it is simply in terms of trade and paying bills! Married women often see the computer as their husbands domain!

I think one of the advantages that the labour party have always had is that the trade union movement cuts across the ages - until retirement, and sexes, because it is based on the work-place. Where it falls down of course is that it is not too interested in rural areas (although of course THAT was its birthplace!!).

Quite a few people even on here tallk disparagingly about the elderly members of our party, and I see elderly people being wheeled, pushed and hobbling into events, but their enthusiasm doesn't change! When I talk to my children - in their middle years, and admittedly with school-age children - they almost pat my (non-silvertop head) and try not to show their boredom, with my 'political interests'. I find the males are usually less dismissive, probably because I can 'keep up' with them whether the political aspect is economic or social.

I wish that there was more inclusivity, between the generations, and areas, in our party, but perhaps it is too difficult. All I know is that belonging to this website has 'given me a life' inasmuch as I have learned so much about politics, economy, the making of laws, how Parliament works, and even the rest of the world, since I have participated on here!

Party Conference needs to be returned to its previous format as well. Accepting proper speeches from the floor and allowing a balloted motion from members are essential. The current Richard and Judy chat-show styling is not inspirational.

One example of what I would expect an effective Party Chairman to do.

At this year's MEP elections many members did not receive a vote at all.

I would expect a good Party Chairman to investigate it and then publish a report with the findings and action plans to address the findings.

From Spellman I have heard nothing.

Paul Oakley makes a good point.
Moving from seaside resorts where B&B accommodation is very afforable to city centres for the party conferences has favoured corporate types over ordinary members.

The Shadow Cabinet member is mistaken.

Firstly, this is a change since last year - there haven't been Boundary Changes to constituencies in the last year, as they happen at election time.#

Secondly, even if this was due to 're-organisation in preparation for the next election', none of the Shadow Cabinet(except Adam Afriye) are losing significant Tory areas in the next round of boundary changes,
(and even in his case, those parts of Windsor are going to Theresa May, so it should be a zero sum game).

'Boundary changes' is not the reason.

The reason is people dying off and leaving.

None of this matters - this just means that younger people don't sign up to parties in the same numbers as their parents and grandparents, and that they express their support differently. Any strategy based on 'retaining members' would probably be off-putting to under-35s, so this is nothing to worry about.

Party size is an interesting topic, because bigger isn't necessarily better. Big enough to be effective when mobilised, small enough to be controllable. Membership of the party is only a means to getting votes - if you have better members, but fewer of them, that's fine. If you could get the votes without a huge membership, why would you care?

Not something to worry about, but the Shadow Cabinet member shouldn't kid him/herself that this uis due to boundary changes.

ak23566 should be cloned and sent to every association! That's the first step. I see people like Duncan Webster in Islington, who's turned a moribund association into something that normal people want to belong to, through his energy and relentless enthusiasm, and I know it can be done. Apart from these examples, and all the other many good suggestions, I think CCHQ should be a lot more proactive in shutting down failed associations and forcing real, open AGMs, so that the power of cliques can be smashed. Any association which can't produce accounts should have the power of candidate selection removed- not to be returned to the centre- but given to people who step forward at publicised, open EGMs.

If members had the right to deselect bedblocker MPs that would help.

I didn't renew my membership after the broken promise to remove the Conservatives from the EPP which David Cameron made during his leadership campaign. I will not renew until that commitment has been met and that the Party make an unequivocal commitment to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty whether ratified or not, if they come to government.

Maybe it would help if every Tory blogger posted something like this every so often: Conservative party membership? - get it here.

There are many visitors to Tory blogs who are not members. Surely this could help boost numbers. Perhaps even a button linking to the membership page could be knocked up and displayed on all Tory blogs willing to participate.

Is it not the case that membership for all the parties has been decreasing for many years now?

The Party in the constituencies exists to win elections. It isn't a social club. People who join expect to do political things, if all you ask them to do is attend fundraisers, they will do other things. Deliver leaflets, knock on doors and talk to people. You will find new members and enthuse existing ones.

Too many Associations maintain staffed offices which eat money, yet produce nothing in terms of engagement with the electorate. Admin functions ought to be amalgamated into service centres grouping 8/10/12 Associations and providing cost effective printing of leaflets and communication with the electorate.

Members ought to be engaged in policy making through closed door "policy forum" meetings where Association delgates get to debate policy with MPs and (shadow) Cabinet, Ministers, SPADs, etc. A great opportunity for talent spotting future MPs!

Members should elect the Party Chairman!

Our association is talking about relaunching as a young professionals social club, meeting in upmarket bars in the city centre.

I think this is a good idea and the best direction to go in. It might attract more women and I would like to think we could get some local entrepreneurs to attend. If people felt they were getting a social life for their membership fee they might be more likely to join.

I feel a bit guilty about this because we are effectively abandoning the traditional Conservative Clubs, but the fact is that where I live these clubs are dingy, unfriendly, difficult to get to on public transport and often in less than salubrious areas.

I suppose we could be accused of elitism but anybody could pay the modest membership fee and turn up at events. There would be no exclusion operating.

Many things shock me about my membership. One big thing is that every summer I get a letter asking for money. This mailing is a perfect opportunity to remind people about the autumn conference but it never does.

As my pseudonym suggests, in these times where liberal leftyism is the new orthodoxy, I am also interested in getting involved in subversive - but law abiding - activities, like the Freedom Association did in the 1970s...

1.Ditching BluLabour and getting back to being Conservatives.

2.Restoring party democracy and accountabilty especially after the MEP farce.

3. A blooming good clear out in CCHQ.

Well if being a member was a benifit then maybe less would leave, as has been said before I didn't join to be bombarded with the odd pamplet and a huge amount of papers asking for money....

"if you took these associations and placed them into age categories, would anyone of them have 25% under 35? I doubt it."

Mark Hudson, my own certainly does and so do a number of other London Associations. I think there is a huge difference between London and the country! A little while ago I attended a very enjoyable women's lunch in another area of the country and it was interesting to see how many older members they had compared with us down here! It is undoubtedly a problem finding activists amongst a predominantly older membership.
Malcolm - your point about the RSPB is absolutely right and I think that organisations which are "issue" driven rather than Party Political are doing better. There is a trend for people, especially the young, to be quite happy to involve themselves in single issue campaigning but not to be so interested in working for a political party. That said, Conservative Future seems to be very successful.

John Moss - we have amalgamated offices, which mean when a constituent phones, the staff have no idea about the issues connected to a particular village etc. All the literature has the address of the office on, which is miles from the constituency which makes us look unconnected to the electorate compared to the local labour/lib dem offices. It does save us money but you get what you pay for.

Completely agree on elected party chairman and some kind of policy forum.

Malcolm, I apologise. I did not mean ALL naturally, but it's a fairly strong generalisation. People tend to get far less involved in voluntary organisations for a whole host of reasons. My own village of Smarden, Kent is probably one of the most community-minded there is, but the majority of participation falls on a few. And I ashamed to say I don't do a great deal more.

Your point about why join an association is spot on. We had an ageing membership, who were spectacularly insular and self-obsessed. The typical younger new member was either put off in very short order, or was someone who wants it to put on their CV before applying to the Candidates List. Ultimately, though, joining a political party is an activity that 98% of the UK population easily manages without.

Unless the Party provides some degree of democracy and return for the £25, there is very little reason to join. If you want to change things, you can exercise your vote at the ballot box and that's absolutely free. The A List, Euro selections, disenfranchisement of Associations and failure to act when called upon are hardly CCHQ's finest hours

John Moss, I agree, you join a political party because you are political, yet if all membership of the Conservative party gets you is tombolas, stuffing envelopes through letter boxes, and raffles, and NO political debate, if not patronised, insulted and treated with contempt by the Party leadership for your political beliefs, well then there is very little point to joining the Conservative party, especially as the areas where members did have a say, in candidates etc, has been removed from them.

The Conservative party needs to ask its self the Woolworths question from the point of view of the membership, what's it there for? To answer it as an ex member of the Conservative party there isn’t a good reason for its existence, there is nothing to politically compensate for your membership fee, the misery of stuffing envelopes through letter boxes, or dutifully returning raffles stubs having arm twisted friends and relatives to part with their cash. What does it politically get you? NOTHING! The fact is you can get more political debate having spent 5 minutes on the ConservativeHome web site than 5 years membership of the Conservative party!

From personal experience, I also reckon the interaction between central office and the branches is also to blame. Joining centrally, as most people tend to do, should pass your details on to the branches. However, this doesn't happen as much as it should, and some of the branches - with antiquated systems - often don't process the new members. So a lot of people - and I think I'm right that there was a surge of members the year Cameron became leader - would have not rejoined having felt like they were in some sort of membership limbo with no feedback from anyone.

Another issue is the growth of big donors like Lord Ashcroft.

When I read that he's giving millions my £15 doesn't seem to be necessary.

Small donors will only start giving when they think it'll make a difference.

Thank you ak23566 at 10.49am!

I found your comments extremely illuminating and they are certainly pointing me in the direction for what to do for our association in 2009.

"if not patronised, insulted and treated with contempt by the Party leadership for your political beliefs"

I am sorry, but this remark only brings to mind Eleanor Roosevelt's famous saying that "No One Can Patronise You Without Your Consent"!

I have never, ever felt patronised in any way by the Conservative Party and neither do many of the people I know. Yes it is perfectly true that our main role is that of knocking on doors and pushing leaflets through letterboxes - but this is how the message gets spread and Conservatives become elected! It is what we are THERE FOR as John Moss and others have pointed out!

If anyone feels "patronised", then perhaps a look at how they can make themselves feel better by getting stuck into some work could be in order...? And after work comes play - we always have a drink and/or a bite to eat after sessions.

-nowadays some benefits are needed; discounts etc

-"if your face fits" guides too many of our Associations. That is a big turn-of. It keeps good people from getting involved. Personalities inevitably play a big part in politics, but there needs to be some control by the Party keeping a watch on those Associations stagnating or which seem prone to splits

-a democratic party needs democratic decision making by the members. The leadership started well & then panicked. The MEP situation was a disgrace and shows how a very small number of established figures can cause problems out of all proportion to their numbers. But then I would have thought DC was fed up with our MEPs by now with their expenses shenanigens.

-the chairman is indeed guilty of "presentism"; time for a change

-a motivated and souped up membership follows a dynamic leadership. Showing bipartisanship about the credit crunch was a huge mistake, letting GB reclaim the initiative. DC & the leadership team should have been tearing into an incompetent govt. & laying the blame. Who wants to follow a quiet leadership?

Simple, put a Tory in charge instead of a Lib Dem.
Also wake up to the fact that an Opposition is supposed to oppose the downward spiral of this Country, not help it along.
I dont think the Tory brand of Islam and windmills does it any favours either.

The Tory party needs to return to its roots so here are some policy changes to bring back those who have left in despair.

1 Scrap the Green Agenda, there is already a Green Party for those of that opinion. Sack Zac Goldsmith both as an adviser and a PPC.

2 Tories are the party of Industry and Commerce and in these times of Economic Depression need to be helping Industry not hindering it. Sack Villiers and support a new runway either at Heathrow or Gatwick, indeed why not at both!

3 Back the Police don't saddle them with elected Police Committees etc. Reform the CPS.

Have mandatory minimum sentences, overhaul the Parole and Remission Systems so that release part way through a sentence should be the rare exception and not the rule. Scrap concurrent sentences, if a criminal is found guilty of 4 offences he should serve four periods in jail one after the other. If this means building more prisons, then why not? This would help the Construction Industry and thus the Economy.

4 Restore the former policy on Grammar Schools and indeed if returned to office at the next election then actually institute a programme of new Grammar Schools rather than just talking about it.

The "A List" should be abolished together with any pressure on Associations to select PPCs by Ethnicity, Gender, Sexual Orientation etc, the best Woman or Man for the job should be chosen. Restore to Associations those powers they have lost.

Now of course such changes may well be considered unacceptable to David Cameron and he might say "Back me or Sack me". If so there's the door David bye-bye, and I can think of another David who could replace him and has at least put his money where his mouth is and resigned and won back his seat in the Commons on an issue of principle.

Now these are the views of an outsider looking in and someone who as stated on other threads would like to vote Conservative at the next General Election (I already vote Tory for the Local Council) but is still put off by some of Cameron's wackier ideas and policies in particular all the Greenery.

More events inclusive of donations to other bodies such as charities or local community needs. Be seen to be for everyone not just Party.
A more flexible membership, with a minimum and maximum fee rather than a blanket one.
There are a lot of things wrong but they apply to every party, for sure. People are dismayed at the ecorruption and propaganda fed them every day without any apparent bringing to book the lies and deceit. Caroline Spelman should be sacked immediately.This one of the kinds of issues that people are turned off by. Politicians seeming to spout on about matters but behind closed doors they do not react to the needs of people.

ak23566 makes the point about switching to fixed renewals. A club I'm in (not political) did this as follows.

To move members to the new date they "extended" existing memberships pro-rata. If your membership expired in October and your new date was in January then you paid an additional 2/12 of the membership fee on 1st November. On 1st Jan a full 12 month bill went out

The comments here are very revealing. In many constituencies, Tory membership has plummeted by a third since David Cameron became leader. That is certainly the case with my own constituency and its three contiguous neighbours. They are all key target seats that the Conservatives lost to the Lib Dems and Labour in 1997.

Many members are fed up being taking for granted. As an earlier poster commented, they don't even get a magazine. UKIP, with less than 20,000 members, sends out a glossy magazine to all its members. Several UKIP counties, e,g. Surrey and Essex send out a newspaper, UKIP news, to members and deliver thousands more to local voters.

Other commenters about the lack of democracy. Many local members were appalled that they could not deselect Europhile MEPs. In UKIP, the European candidate process is totally democratic. The members ranked the entire slate in a postal ballot after a series of hustings in their region.

My friends who have stayed in the Tory Party are dismayed that that party conference has become an expensive talk show with no opportunity to debate issues. A large part of this year's UKIP conference agenda included open debates that any member could participate in. It also included speakers from The Taxpayers Alliance and the Adam Smith Institute which are treated like pariahs by Cameroons, especially George Osborne.

I got fed up with the lack of democacy, candidate selection, no membership benefits, no free speech especially at conference and the Blue Labour policies. I defected to UKIP earlier this year.

Yet I still get mailings from my local association and begging letters from CCHQ. It is likely that many associations are returning bogus inflated figures to CCHQ and the Electoral Commission. The Conservative Party is being killed off by the Cameroons. They don't want a healthy party with lots of active members - just lobby fodder in the Commons and taxpayers' money to pay their cronies in CCHQ.

I am glad that finally Cameron's blue green loonies. In UKIP, I have a joined a party with real conservative policies on flat tax, the environment and the EU. Our membership is rising again and many of the new recruits are disillusioned Tories who are fed up with Cameron and Osborne. Contrary to CCHQ propaganda, they are not fruitcakes or geriatrics but young professionals, often with families. Young Independence's membership is booming.

If you want to join a pro-market party with real conservative policies, I urge send a message a Cameron. Join me in UKIP or at least lend the party your vote in June's European elections. Our country's freedom's are at stake and the Cameroons cannot be trusted to defend them.

I have to say I laughed out loud when I read Graeme's post. I know Graeme and he knows me. We get on, so that's why I not going to spoil things by revealing myself.

Graeme, Hackney Association (your turf) is practically defunct. You know we have a *very* low membership, it's impossible to join (people never hear back from us),has had no agm in two years and does little in the way of campaigning.

YOU were given the job of sorting the membership out, but you did absolutely nothing. Writing on Con Home is all very well and good, but when it comes to attracting new members and retaining existing ones, 'arm chair generals' are not much help...

well-known activist, I am glad that you at least didn't claim to be a friend of Graeme's - merely that you "get on" and certainly you wouldn't if he knew your identity; I should think he'd feel quite hurt at your unwarranted personal attack.

I'm afraid we will have to live with the party as it is. We cannot be trusted to vote for those who represent us in a "PC" manner. It's the way of the world that in general men are more interested in politics than women. It's also true that in general the men putting themselves forward are more suitable. Please note: I said "In general".

Therefore if members were allowed to vote for the most suitable candidate we would end up with a very honest but "un-PC" party.

This is something that cannot be allowed. No matter how honest it would be, we would be seen as a sexist party. Sadly this has been brought about by a false sense of sexism. We have for a long time (when given the chance) voted for the most suitable candidate. For God's sake, we were the party that produced the first female PM.

I can't see this age of positive discrimination ending for at least a decade.

I think you need different strategies for different groups.

For entirely new members there is a brilliant opportunity right now to capture the 'brown out' mood. (I don't care whether the published polls reflect it or not, but I never meet anyone who speaks well of brown...).

I can see some objections to riding an 'anyone but brown' wave, rather than a purely pro-tory one - but realistically that 'anyone' can only be Cameron - to miss it would be a wasted opportunity. Once people are in - then they can be asked what will keep them on board...

The trouble with giving ordinary members more power is that they would with there extreme views quickly make the party totally unelectable.
Until the membership realise that the majority of people have moderate opinions and want the country governed from the centre I think it would be political suicide to give members more power.

I suggest MORUS is wrong on his/her assertion that boundary changes are irrelavent.

If the newpaper is sourcing their information from the electoral commission then that information at best compares 2007 with 2006, and not 2008 with 2007.

It's easy increasing membership - just ask! But how many associations actually do that?

I was just thinking how high the standard of debate was on this thread - and how troll-free - when I read the entirely predictable comment from our Jack Stone!

A good question but the comments are varied. It does show that there is a distrust of the centralisation of the Party. Essentially Central Office know everything, the membership is merely cannon fodder, "shut up and do as you are told". Further I notice comments appearing about governance and the EU, Cameron does not think that this matters..... IT DOES! He should be listening, not telling.

I fully agree with Tim's suggestions and would also add my tuppence.

I cannot speak for anything but my own Constituency Association.

Since I rejoined the party back in 2005, I recall having had the chance to vote twice (leadership election [I had to request this] and MEP selection), been invited to annual meeting and one other one meeting, received the invite to the annual dinner and periodic pleas for more donations from CCHQ.

To my knowledge there have been no other participatory Conservative events in the constituency.

If you look on the constituency web-site, the events page asks you to email them, nothing is advertised. The only news is links to the MP's (a shadow minister) web-site and links to the two MEP's sites (one of which is subsidised by a third party and the other one seemingly is 12 months out of date) and one county councillor's site which is 2 years out of date.

Of the 2 to 1 majority Conservative group in the local town council only a handful have bothered (less than a quarter) to publish bios and only three have provided contact details on the web-site and for the majority county council group only one has bothered to provide a bio and contact details. Other than that there is a link to the official County Council web-site.

Oh and finally there is no mention of Conservative Future.

The party office is situated in a village and certainly there is no meeting place/ contact point in the largest town in the constituency and no information as to whether there is a meeting place/ contact point in the secondary town in the constituency.

OK I accept that it is a safe seat (five figure majority) and the majorities on the County and Town councils are pretty much undefeatable at the moment.

However, the overall impression is that for whatever reason the Association is complacently dormant and the party just wants our cash. Given that case, is it any surprise if few are interested in joining and others are tired of paying cash to what seems little more than a glorified clique?

Whilst the constituency is safe there are a fair number of marginal seats within 40 miles and some councils in NOC. Surely someone in the party must realise that to develop the party membership they need to tap into the resources already available in safe seats like this one. It's no good for association chairman to sit on their hands and protect their own patch. They need to do something positive!

Much has been made of Obama's successful use of the Internet but what is less discussed was his ability to get people out on the ground early to organise local support. It is this I suggest that was fundamental in building the phenomena that Obama's campaign became and swelled the Democratic parties ranks.

Consequently, if the leadership want to rebuild the party then perhaps they need a team to set out how to rejuvenate 'dormant' safe associations and use them to them to rebuild local organisations to run money raising events, build membership and breath some life back into the party! A starting point maybe to look at the local associations and find out what is working and try to get this rolled out across the country.

It's not enough to have occasional votes, ask for donations and have the odd dinner.

The key to this is member participation and until there is a serious attempt to do something to encourage it then the membership will continue to slide.

V interesting comments. I can sympathise with comments about most events being social events and for fund-raising. We could have no more than 2 political events a year (even less if you miss it due to diary clash) - and even those seem more for fund-raising. As for consultation of members on policy, it seems to be a case of needing to buy influence with shadow cabinet members through joining one of the expensive clubs (e.g. the one run by William Hague). So this site plays a crucial role in enabling, both through being able to comment and the monthly survey, conservatives to voice their opinions.

Also other things could help motivate members and attract new ones:
- standing for true conservative values (e.g. low taxes, small state, traditional family, the nation state rather than EU and UN, law & order that favours the peaceful law-abiding rather than thugs and criminals, defence rather than appeasment, true freedom - by this I mean basic freedoms like freedom of speech, conscience and religion and not social liberalism that lacks moral guidelines of right and wrong) rather than pandering to PC and the demands of the liberal-left media.
- enabling associations to select true conservative candidates.
- enabling proper involvement of members in policy development and contact with shadow ministers.

But UKIP would only help Lab in again. I recall (correctly?) that UKIP took away sufficient votes in 2005 to deprive us of about 30 seats. A DC-led government would be far preferable to the Brown/Mandelson one. More EU-sceptic and less likely to surrender our currency, more responsibility on the economy rather than excessive borrowing, more likely to reduce tax…and DC's commitment to do something about brokenness in society by recognising marriage in the tax system and empowering the private and voluntary sectors to play a bigger role in tackling poverty rather than rely on the dead-hand of the State.

Mark writes:
"She receives regular letters from her ministers, MP, etc informing her of what's going on, inviting her to events - I've received one quite nice paper booklet and lots of letters asking for money.
"Ofcourse there are ideological issues at stake, but there are some pretty bread and butter things that are wrong too."

With respect I think this sort of thing trivial: it's ideology, every time. I couldn't care less about booklets, or the cool membership cards someone else mentioned. It does not suprise me at all to learn that Party membership continues to decline: when one observes the major Parties merely squabbling over trivial percentage points on or off this, firmly in the Social Democrat centreground of Big Government tax-and-spend Welfare Statism, there is precious little incentive to vote, let alone join the Tories or anyone else. Mind you, I am toying with the idea of joining the Libertarian Party, not because I believe they stand a chance of significant gains with an electorate so wedded to social control & State handouts but so that I can tell doorstep canvassers about it and exactly why I joined...
I'm not sure how I might be able to convey to Tories the exact degree of my frustration with the political process and my anger & disgust at being, in effect, disenfranchised. Tories? Who are they exactly, and what precisely will they guarantee to do to slash the strangling web of the State and resrictive legislation that binds this country? Seriously, I mean, not just waffling and tinkering..? Will they do much if anything? Prove it! Point to precedent, history, guarantees... There's a lot of interesting debate on this forum but I find the level of dim-witted complacency about continuing to play the conventional Party game quite frightening. Nero and Rome spring to mind.

If someone has the time, couldn't the membership income of each Association be found from their accounts presented to the Electorial Commision? Should be on the website.

RealConservative:
"UKIP would only help Lab in again. I recall (correctly?) that UKIP took away sufficient votes in 2005 to deprive us of about 30 seats.
And what lesson have you and other Tories learned from this, if anything?

Despite the supposed falls in membership, I suspect as a past Association Chairman that the number of small donors contributing to the party is actually up. This may very well reflect a long-term trend in which people are happy to donate to political parties at their convenience but do not want to become members.

Malcolm Stevas

Ergo, UKIP-style EU referendum plus English parliament = +30 seats.

Would sound good to me!

I think we have to be fair and realistic here.

1)"membership" of many organisations is declining, especially political ones and the situation will definately get worse as people cancel subs in the recession.
2)the picture across associations is mixed and those that portray many associations losing a third of members in the last 2 years are way off the mark.
3)the decline is largely to do with an ageing membership who sadly are just passing away. We are not alone in this problem.
4) I would venture to suggest we are unlikely to increase "membership" in any significant and sustainable way by the usual membership methods, if at all.
5) many associations rely mostly on volunteering activities and are stretched. It is easy to comment on this and that should happen but it depends on people coming forward to help or responding when asked for help. The stuff that has to be done IS stuffing envelopes and delivering leaflets etc.
6) there is too much central requests for money. I know it is important and why it is done but it is winding people up massively and making it harder for local associations to ask for money.
7) centralisation/streamlining of offices can work well in urban areas but can be a problem in non-urban areas because of distances and geography. One size does not fit all.
8) being an activist/officer in a voluntary body of almost any type, anywhere, inevitably makes you a "clique" and you will find yourself working your guts out while being surrounded by whingers or worse. This is why very few people wish to be officers.
9) the world has changed and is changing rapidly. Most people do not join political parties to be entertained anymore, indeed while we may share political viewpoints we may actually find each other the last people we want to socialise with! Also as is found on this site, the internet provides information and debate.

What to do? I suggest we get away from the notion of just "membership" and what this traditionally implies. What do Associations actually need and what are they for?

1) they are there to campaign for new representatives to get change
2) they need money to operate as an organisation
2) they need people to help out with day to day local campaigning tasks
3) they need roots to ground debate in ordinary peoples views

Any system that achieves the above and closes the loop between those 4 things should be considered. Perhaps agree nationally but run locally some specific policy campaigns and ask people to support them with funds and tasks. Informalise things - get rid of the heavy committee meetings etc. Be the change, as Obama said.

Personally:

I don't like glossy magainze (if they can be afforded, then my tiny dontations clearly aren't needed).

I don't like donating to anonymous 'pots' - I want to know what my money is being used for.

I don't like labour and will do what I can to get rid of them.

I would prefer to make multiple, occasional small donations for specific things, than one annual donation.

I don't want a 'walled garden' for political discussion - open sites like this are far better (although as numbers increase that may change!).

I don't think an MP should be more heavily influenced by members of a local association than by any other consituents.

I would be happy to have merchandise (mugs, badges etc) opposing brown/labour and promoting tory principals. I would not really go for generic 'tory' merchanise - I support the party becuase of its principals, not because of its name... (and if it changes those principals - like supporting ID cards again - I'd be off again!).

Generally I think more people will join if they are allowed to make a difference -- however allowing that needs to be well managed!!

I have an idea... how about making The Conservative Party conservative again?

Just a thought.

The tories should also support 'no2id' cards and similar organisations - common causes, and a good source of potential new members.

John Moss at 12.18 makes a good point about Amalgamation/merging of neighbouring associations. This has been strongly encouraged by CCO management and has resulted in a loss of commitment and involvement of those members who are left out of the resulting 'charmed circle' that has reduced local contact with members and helpers. It may appear cost effective to CCO but the results are not encouraging.
Also instructions from CCO about membership fees, candidate selection policy etc has also demotivated some members who see their efforts and opinions devalued.

"But UKIP would only help Lab in again. I recall (correctly?) that UKIP took away sufficient votes in 2005 to deprive us of about 30 seats."

Another deluded comment that assumes that all UKIP voters would switch to the Tories if UKIP did not stand! UKIP takes votes from Labour, the Lib Dems and BNP too.

A significant proportion of UKIP voters would not vote at all if they did not have a UKIP candidate. In practice, the BNP, currently the main threat to Conservative councillors in many target seats, would the main beneficiaries. Do you really want to help the BNP?

There is, of course, one clear option for MPs to ensure that there is no UKIP candidate in their constituencies. All they have to do is sign up publicly to support the Freedom Association's Better Off Out campaign.

If the Conservative Party gave a manifesto commitment to withdraw from the European Union, a significant number of UKIP activists would rejoin the Party. But that will never happen.

The Conservative Party, under David Cameron, is very pro-EU. No more MPs or PPCs are allowed to sign up to Better Off Out. Cameron will not even commit to referendum on the Lisbon Treaty if it is ratified before the next general election.

So if you are non-racist opponent of EU membership, there is only party to vote for - UKIP.

But UKIP would only help Lab in again. I recall (correctly?) that UKIP took away sufficient votes in 2005 to deprive us of about 30 seats."

Another deluded comment that assumes that all UKIP voters would switch to the Tories if UKIP did not stand! UKIP takes votes from Labour, the Lib Dems and BNP too.

A significant proportion of UKIP voters would not vote at all if they did not have a UKIP candidate. In practice, the BNP, currently the main threat to Conservative councillors in many target seats, would the main beneficiaries. Do you really want to help the BNP?

There is, of course, one clear option for MPs to ensure that there is no UKIP candidate in their constituencies. All they have to do is sign up publicly to support the Freedom Association's Better Off Out campaign.

If the Conservative Party gave a manifesto commitment to withdraw from the European Union, a significant number of UKIP activists would rejoin the Party. But that will never happen.

The Conservative Party, under David Cameron, is very pro-EU. No more MPs or PPCs are allowed to sign up to Better Off Out. Cameron will not even commit to referendum on the Lisbon Treaty if it is ratified before the next general election.

So if you are non-racist opponent of EU membership, there is only party to join or vote for - UKIP, a truly democratic party that values its loyal activists.

RealConservative, you have it right this time. UKIP is a Labour front and a conscious one at that. They officially oppose the EU but won some EP seats on protest votes and turn up in Brussels/ Strasbourg for the nice food, fine wines and expenses.

This was a good, positive thread and suddenly it's being diverted down a UKIP-related deadend. Further off topic comments will be deleted!

We have the Party membership the leadership wants.

DC doesn't want a mass membership. It only matters one Sunday a year when NOTW publishes an article listing the figures.
Real funds are raised from big business.
Policy is decided by focus group and the Big Four in CCHQ.
A Conference is needed for publicity but the media can be relied on to keep the cameras on the speaker and not on the size of the audience.
Electioneering is done on the internet or over the TV and local campaigning contributes almost nothing except in a by election when a mobile hit squad invariably makes up for local deficiencies.

A mass membership is an embarrassment with its insistence on policy consistency and some basic values. It can only be relied on to say something stupid or venal during an undercover Guardian investigation. It's not even required to provide candidates these days. That's all been decided in Pop (or their sisters).

If you want to restore a mass membership and are prepared to step over Dave's dead but still resisting body then there is only one way....

Allow political funding only from individual Party members and limit individual donations to £5000.

Editor, my comments were on topic. My last comment was a response to a ridiculous claim by another poster.

Surely you agree that Tory membership is declining due to changes introduced by David Cameron

- sexist candidate selection
- stage managed and expensive party conferences
- no membership benefits
- unpopular and unconservative policies

Not a single poster on this thread has claimed that their local association has increased its membership since Cameron was elected party leader.

As usual, Tories blame the messenger. We have seen it with recent opinion polls that are dismissed as rogue because they show decling support for the Conservatives.

Voters, unlike the despised Tory members, at least have a real weapon to force Cameron to change direction.

"Much has been made of Obama's successful use of the Internet but what is less discussed was his ability to get people out on the ground early to organise local support. It is this I suggest that was fundamental in building the phenomena that Obama's campaign became and swelled the Democratic parties ranks."

I think that Obama's success was mostly due to people thinking "Wow, we could actually get a black president elected. Wouldn't that be great?"

"Allow political funding only from individual Party members and limit individual donations to £5000."

And go back to the days when leaflets consisted of two colours cranked out on an elderly printing machine? I am afraid that decent campaigning costs money these days and the glossy leaflets DO have quite an impact!

I think the rest of your post is a little cynical to say the least. I take the point that some people feel a little "shut out" of the decision-making process and clearly the strength of feeling shows that the leadership need to look at this - but to claim that everything is "decided in Pop (or their sisters)" is simply ridiculous.

Some interesting if quite predictable comments here. Clearly there has to be much greater effort from CCHQ to engage with members if they wish to arrest the decline. I do wonder though if some of them actually care?
Members too can try to help, by making their own associations more of a place for political debate rather than just a social club for older people.
We all want the Conservative Party to succeed so any further ideas would be very welcome indeed.
I don't want tto go off topic or quarrel with Tim but the comments from the 'concerned' UKIP contingent make me smile. Their membership is I'm told in freefall and their organisation utterly moribund. There are many places we could learn lessons from, UKIP is not one of them.

Tim Montgomerie:
"This was a good, positive thread and suddenly it's being diverted down a UKIP-related deadend. Further off topic comments will be deleted!"
Sorry, hadn’t realised this thread was purely for genuine tru-blue Tories: I thought it might be open to Tory-watchers / former Tories such as myself to comment on the pros & cons of membership. AFAICS UKIP was brought up by a Tory supporter, and it’s the case that I only mentioned UKIP incidentally, as it were. Would you deny that UKIP is an important key to understanding the electoral success, or lack of it, of the Tories? Surely not. I mean, Tories can carry on nattering about fund-raising, socials, glossy magazines, blah blah, ‘til hell freezes over, but it’s all just massively trivial and irrelevant because in the early 21stC as opposed to the 1950s we’re actually looking at serious threats to political liberty in this country, coupled with an assault on our national sovereignty. A few Tories whinging about this or that superficial perk of Party membership really does seem like, er, Nero & Rome. Why don’t you lot wake up and look to the essentials? Why don’t you offer a radical, liberty-centred alternative to the oppressive, bankrupt, collectivist future threatened by Labour - ? What are you all afraid of?

Sally, please don't worry about my feelings: "well known activist" quite often takes the trouble of writing spiteful untruths about me. For the record, that bitter little remark from "activist" was not true. I did sort out the membership and supporter list for Hackney, which was a complete mess. But only Association officers, who (one presumes) know who has and who has not paid a membership fee can filter that list and cause an AGM to happen. I'll not be holding my breath.

Dont worry about it.

People who 'join' Parties tend to be activists. Parties who are very radical encourage more activists.

But parties who are very radical lose general votes.

If we get more extreme, we'll lose votes and gain members. And vice-versa.

Let's face it, if we came out anti-EU we'd get loads of those lost members back. That's what most of this is about. But until the country itself is ready for the anti-EU argument (it isnt, yet) that's a great way to lose an election.

"Well known activist" is rather deluded (maybe forgot his name, rather than preferring to be anonymous?) Thanks to Graeme and his other half, Hackney actually now has something resembling a membership list. Well done to both of them.

But, this isn't a forum for East London spats. The wider point is that, if you don't have a decent Association most of the incentives of being an active party member disappear in an instant. As I said in an earlier comment, central membership is badly organised and, as others point out, it's an expensive way of signing up for begging letters. My university, for example, sends them to me for free...

'I've received one quite nice paper booklet and lots of letters asking for money."

I have to say, this is my experience. I get very angry with the constant letters asking for a £5000 donation, which as a student is ridiculous. If they asked for £50 on the other hand...

Remember also, some people are members of more than one association, and with the fees going up so dramatically this is becoming increasingly impossible to afford. I don't feel as though the membership declining, which Im sure it has, has had any real impact upon our visibility on the streets. Having said that, after 4 or 5 years as PM DC will begin to lose members as naturally would happen; not good to be starting from a low base...

Dear "well known activist" let me point out a few facts to you

1. Graeme and I spent several very long nights sorting out the shambles that was the so-called Hackney membership list, from the half dozen or so different and incomplete bits of data that were floating about.
2. Having composed a list of over a hundred names and addresses, I found that (naturally, since I'm not an Association officer) I lacked the information about who on that list had paid membership fees. Of the 140 addresses I compiled, only 14 were labelled as having eligible subs.
3. Gaining any information on membership subs from the Association treasurer has proved impossible.
4. It's up to the Association officers to use the list I gave them to call a constitutional AGM.

I don't have Graeme's gentle character, and he won't tell me who he believes you are. If you are the person I'm pretty sure you are, your remarks come as no surprise, since your history of 'activism' in Hackney has consisted of self-serving positioning. You could always prove me wrong by just using your name rather than this childish "well known activist" rubbish. You have our private email address if you don't want to talk on this forum.

It is actually me that has stopped Graeme from calling an AGM because I believed it was pointless given the above facts (that we don't know who has the right to vote). I look forward to a full, frank, face to face discussion.

PS The membership lists provided by Central Office were no more use.

Sounds likes Hackney is doomed. Why not put it in special measures and use some of the ideas in this thread to breath life into it? It would be the perfect guinea pig.

I find it somewhat surprising actually, because from around 2005 it feels as if there are a few more members, and having more local councillors (as we do) usually helps.

But sometimes it doesn't - there continues to be a poor membership in some areas where we control the council aswell as the Parliamentary seat hands down.

I think people do tend to join parties more if they feel they can actually be elected themselves, or contribute to something very tangible for someone else, and there are fewer people who are happy to be just a humble active member with no political ambitions. Maybe that is the way it is now.

But provided we have councillors elected, can raise funds, and have enough other people to help do the job, it may actually be what one has to expect nowadays. Better to find a way of making it work, rather than complaining about it.

There are new members aswell though, people who believe it is an important time to support us, so there must be churn in the figures.

I would, however, support the idea of a magazine like Heartland, and the revitalisation of things like the old policy discussions which went back to the national party, and more widely publicising speaker meetings.

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