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"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.

Posted by: Malcolm Dunn | December 21, 2008 at 18:03"

At the risk of incurring of the wrath, I must respond to these lies. To be charitable, I will assume that Malcolm Dunn must reading the lies posted by BNP trolls on various forums.

UKIP membership is rising steadily again, probably due in part to the European elections next year. The party has a new Chairman (early 30s) and General Secretary (late 20s) who are improving the organisation quickly.

I'd just like to support three previous points:

-"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."

-"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!"


-"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" - Cllr Frances Lankester

I left recently this year because the selection for our PPC meant that a number of good candidates (in the first round) did not get through to the final on the sole basis that they were men.

That was annoying enough, but then we had the European Candidates vote debacle where some men who got more votes ended up lower down the party list than a woman. What was the point of voting for who you was best?

I'm sorry but as a man who has had to work hard to get where he is, I had enough of seeing fellow men being discriminated against.

This is was not the sort of 'progressive' politics that I wanted when I voted for Cameron.

I wouldn't mind but even the awful LiB Dems haven't gone down this route.

Steve Tierney:
"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."
This sounds to me as if being a Tory isn't about saying what you mean, and meaning what you say: it's all about positions and profiles, or something. Sort of a political Kama Sutra...
This stuff about scandals & disorganisation in local Party membership groups is almost laughably tedious! And in Hackney, forsooth, as in an ancient Round The Horne skit: "Doctor, I'm suffering terribly from acne!" "Well, why don't you move to Wapping..."
I wondered previously what Tories were afraid of - seems it's commitment, sadly. They can't/don't trust the electorate. Although a great many people are undoubtedly dupes & addicts of Welfare Statery I'm confident there are enough people of conviction out there to vote like a shot for any Party that promises convincingly a return to small government, low taxes and respect for the individual. It's a shame the Tories no longer have the strength of character to offer this.

"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."

Spot on. Labour are really effective at mobilising the grass roots.

Simple answer.

Adverts in the local papers, with application forms included in the advert. And with an online option.

When I was a Conservative candidate a few years ago, the party opened call centres to canvass voters and recruit new members. There was another initiative to recruit and train new agents and local campaign managers, particularly women.

We used to own 32 Smith Square. It was sold to pay off Michael Howard's election debts. It has now been acquired by the European Union. CCHQ is now based in Millbank, home of New Labour, and the research dept has been moved to the Commons to cut property rental costs.

Now we find that membership and donations are down. Key campaign staff are being let go by CCHQ with important elections and, possibly, a general election only a few months away.

CCHQ isn't working!! Who is responsible, and accountable, for this mess? Francis Maude must be one of culprits.

I really must laugh at UKIP defector.

UKIP is a busted flush, its share of the vote is pathetic and whilst its leaders use cheap foreign labour to refurbish their mansions they also made it clear that they no longer wish to withdraw from Europe.

It would be more interesting to see the membership figures from the marginals we hope to gain. This is where most of the central money is being spent - with options in all of the literature to join the party. Are we getting increasing membership in these seats?

Perhaps we should invite people to join!
And then do it again and again.
Only by being active and demonstrating what we do and believe in can we increase membership. Too often potential supporters haven't joined because no one ever asked them if they would like to.

Once potential supporters realise that they can be passive supporters and treat the Conservative Party as a valuable organisation to support like the RSPB or National Trust, they will join with a modest subscription.

Phase two is to enlist these supporter's help at elections or with deliver and request appropriate donations.

National mail shots asking for thousands of pounds sent to pensioners will not work. An invitation to join a patron's club locally may.A personal request from the local MP of councillor will be much more effective.

Membership books were also useful, because we could sign up supporters on the doorstep.

The main thing is recruitment and retention is continual, it cannot just be a one off campaign that is then ignored.

This is as much about organisation as policy.

I drafted a membership drive plan recently and recommended reducing the £25 charge, especially for couples.

Immediately squashed by regional office.

My wife is on maternity, I'm self employed and work in the construction industry very very quiet. To us (and I suspect many others) £25 is a lot of money, especially in current climate.

Maybe if we reduced the charge, more people would join, but for as long as the party is run by people who regard £25 as small change we will struggle for members - and in the polls.

Malcolm Stevas:-

You said:
>>This sounds to me as if being a Tory isn't about saying what you mean, and meaning what you say<<

I'm sure it does. You hear what you choose to hear. As Im sure you are aware the Tories, like all political parties, are a broad church. There are lots of strands of opinion on certain matters. I could say what I feel, but that wouldn't be speaking for the whole party. None of us, not even our leaders, speaks the feelings of the entire party. The same is true for Labour, Lib Dems, etc.

Besides, this post wasn't about stating our personal views on the EU, or any other divisive issue. It was about membership levels and what to do about them. And it was in that narrow remit that I responded.

Where the EU is concerned it is no secret that the party doesn't all agree. This is a topic which has heavily concentrated on political strategy (with a view to increasing membership) and I responded in kind. If you choose to see that as some other oblique statement, then that's your perogative.

You also said:
>>I wondered previously what Tories were afraid of - seems it's commitment, sadly.<<

The Tories are the only main party who **do** understand commitment. Unless you count Labour's commitment to 'stay in power whatever it costs' and the Lib Dems commitment to capitalise on whatever fad is in vogue this week.

Then you railed on:-
>>They can't/don't trust the electorate. <<

Taking words nobody said and introducing them in a deceitful way so as to achieve capital in a debate is all very clever, yes. Its called 'spin' though. Its been done to death lately, don't you think?

Finally you said something made sense:-
>>Although a great many people are undoubtedly dupes & addicts of Welfare Statery I'm confident there are enough people of conviction out there to vote like a shot for any Party that promises convincingly a return to small government, low taxes and respect for the individual. It's a shame the Tories no longer have the strength of character to offer this.<<

I agree. Except that I think that's almost precisely what the Tories *do* stand for.

"This is as much about organisation as policy."
That so many think this way possibly helps to explain the Tory Party's impoverished membership figures. If you lot actually had something resembling real policy, based on solid traditional principles dramatically different from the squalid collectivist tax-and-spend authoritarianism of Labour, and could convince people that you were sincere, you might attract both members and votes.

Steve Tierney:
>>They can't/don't trust the electorate. <<
"Taking words nobody said and introducing them in a deceitful way so as to achieve capital in a debate is all very clever, yes. Its called 'spin' though. Its been done to death lately, don't you think?"

Possibly, but I'm not guilty of this. I think you've misunderstood. I say the Tories don't trust the electorate because they daren't come out and talk openly about e.g. withdrawing from the EU, or say concrete things about significant tax cuts as a matter of principle not out of mere pragmatism.

"Finally you said something made sense.."
Thanks - not at all ad hominen, of course...
>>Although a great many people are undoubtedly dupes & addicts of Welfare Statery I'm confident there are enough people of conviction out there to vote like a shot for any Party that promises convincingly a return to small government, low taxes and respect for the individual. It's a shame the Tories no longer have the strength of character to offer this.<<

"I agree. Except that I think that's almost precisely what the Tories *do* stand for."
Really? Given the failings I've suggested, how on earth do you support this? Cut away the bluster, the daily modifications of position, the finely calculated - tiny-percentage-points responses to the government's prescriptions, I am genuinely curious as to how you can impute strength of character to the Tory Party. I mean, this is what it is supposed to represent, among other things, but in actuality...? AFAICS there's a modicum of (synthetic) sound and fury in the Tory approach, but it signifies nothing of any importance to those like myself concerned with the restoration of political liberty, individual freedom, small government, low taxes...

I was a branch treasurer for seven years, member of the constituency association Executive for five years and Deputy Chairman for my constituency association for four years. During this time we had four party leaders with an increasingly distance and remote CCHQ. The party was not interested in the views of the grass roots, whom they saw more often as not as an embarassment. Under Cameron and Maude the contempt CCHQ had for local activists became palpable.

I served on the panel for the selection of a PCC to replace our MP of many years standing. The quality of the A list candidates was abysmal with too many self serving FoDs (Friends of Dave), too many with no experience or knowledge and too many who were simply unelectable. I understand our chairman was asked by CCHQ to interview Zak Goldsmith as he hadn't made many shortlists. Goldsmith's cv was a joke with little in terms of achievement and an admission that he had previously campaigned against the Conservatives. With the apparent connivance of CCHQ, our chairman prevented a strong local candidate and activist from even making the last twenty and being interviewed.
The tipping point for my resignation from the party was grammar schools and the sheer incompetence of 'No Brains' Willetts (some would say 's**t for brains')raising an issue which caused three to four weeks of internal argument when we should have been attacking Gordon Brown as he was assuming the leadership of the Labour Party.

More recently our supreme strategist 'Little George' has not only been out of touch on virtually every aspect of the economic crisis but in his courting of Deripaska has repeated Willetts' stupidity in drawing public attention away from the main enemy.

So why should I re-join what really has become the 'Stupid Party' whose leaders seem to treat with contempt any one with less than a net worth of several million?

There are two things that must be done to recover party membership:

1) Return the Conservative party to being conservative, and not New Labour lite.

2) Halt completely the culture of contempt with which CCHQ under Cameron, and for that matter Howard as well, treats party members.

£25 a year too much? how about £2 a month? or 50p a week?

Technology makes this easy to do... Price shouldn't be an issue.

How would you revive Tory membership?

I don't know?

How do you bring the dead back to life?

I was a member of a large and wealthy Conservative Association in the south of England, ending up as the DC (Political) before I resigned because the association officers spent all theor time organising social events to raise a hundred thousand pounds a year to pay for an office and two staff who spent substantially all of their organising social events to raise a hundred thousand pounds a year to pay for an office and two staff who spent substantially all of their organising social events .... (you probably get the point) .... and were next to no use at politics.

The seat would return a Conservative MP if a blue rosette was stuck on a pig and very little went to CCHQ or nearby marginal seats where the funds could have been better used.

Malcolm Stevas:-

Since Im a Libertarian and a Profound Conservative, I share all of the wishes you express for the country. I'm a member of the "Better Off Out" school of thought too, if that gives you a clearer idea of my political leanings.

But I'm also a realist.

I'd love to live in a world where we could all wear our heart on our sleeves and people judged us for precisely what we did and what we said. If we can get there some day, so much the better. In fact, I often do exactly that, and this is probably while I'll always be an activist and never an MP!

But the sad but honest reality of national politics is that things just plain don't work that way. We could debate the 'whys' and 'what ifs' until the cows come home, but it doesn't change the reality of it.

I do understand the need for our leaders to be more diplomatic. It has nothing to do with lies or spin. Things have their time. Until they are ready to have their time, shouting them from the rooftops is counterproductive. It's part of a mass media-led democracy.

If a party comes right out and says: "Let's leave the EU, okay?" They don't do well. Look at UKIP. Yes, there is some very strong support for them in certain quarters. But they will never achieve their aim because they will never achieve power. That's got nothing to do with "not trusting the people to vote" and everything to do with understanding the nature of politics.

Things have their time. People come around to a way of thinking. I'm glad I don't have to worry about political strategy because (like you, I suspect) I'm not comfortable with it. But since this thread has been, in part, a discussion about political strategy, I'm as ready as the next guy to indulge from an intellectual standpoint.

So, my point was this. If a party wishes to get elected in the current climate, they have to sit near the middle ground and be 'safe'. That might mean a falling core membership for a while.

Then, when they win an election, if they wish to become more radical (and I do feel some very radical changes are going to be necessary very soon) then they must take that debate to the public on the back of some fine early consolidation work and convince people its the right way to do despite their reservations.

That's an honest and decent way for a political party to behave and I think its the way our party will behave if we win.

I do not think it is possible to revive membership of the Tory Party (or Labour).

Change is a break from the status quo of the country always being led by either the Tories or Labour who therefore do not need to ever be really bold or radical, they just need to plan to inch it over their rivals.

The country needs system change and that is incompatible with the Tories and Labour as any such change would break their stranglehold on British politics, and thus neither party will ever advocate such change.

Sad, but true. Until we get a billionaire to fund a real system-change party, things will remain the same, and with the state funding proposals from Cameron, even that option is potentially running out of time.

First Past the Post, for all its 'local representative' 'benefits' is the disease that is killing British politics.

Until parliament reflects the spread of opinion, the downward spiral will continue.

I left the party due to policy differences. Those differences largely remain. Gove still refuses to properly acknowlwedge the serious issue of children in care after 3 years as Shadow Secretary and I find my local Conservatives arent coming up with the right line on the related issue of London boroughs sending their children in care to us in Thanet. Mental health isnt given the prominence in Lansleys speeches that it really should, given the country is becoming older.

I dont believe the Tories have properly learned from their mistakes of the past and I dont sense the genuineness in what they say. They talk about helping everyone but concentrate on married couples as if they in themselves will save the country from the social abyss it is teetering upon falling into.

The arrogant dictatorial nature of the relationship from CCHQ to Associations put me right off, especially after the farce that was the supposedly open consultation over reforms of the Party when the membership fee was kicked up which was nothing less than a fraud, something for which Francis Maude has shown no apology for.

Camerons uncalled for attack on libertarianism during the recent Conference pushed me away as well.

There are simple steps to boost Conservative Party membership:

1. Get rid of Cameron
2. Get off the fence about the EU
3. Be truthful about the EU effect on your policies
4. Start using plain English and not Political Speak
5. If you really mean 'local democracy' then suggest you implement
policies advocated by Daniel Hannan and UKIP.
6. Adopt the mantra the best form of government is the smallest government.

After checking Google it seems I was wrong about Gove. He posted on Guardian recently about children in care and about them not enjoying the stability they deserve. He then blows the whole thing by concentrating on the issue of mixed race adoptions by itself. True it may be an issue but there are far bigger ones than that which can be pretty easily solved. The lack of adoptive parents generally is an issue along with a serious lack of after care follow up has already been highlighted as far more important than that issue of equality. A lack of social workers makes it worse for those in care already and Goves comments are still missing the mark.

In a time of economic stress unfortunately membership of political parties is one of those "extra costs" that many cannot really afford. I think it would be wise to come up with a number of different membership prices to take account of falling incomes. Those joining the dole queues are more likely to want to join and fight,than those who feel secure, so we should have a low starting rate for the unemployed and those on benefits. Of course some of the problem is down to the general publics cynicism regarding politicians in general. Another problem is the very dated feel of many of the local parties. Sadly our membership is also quite off putting. There is still a good deal of snobbery and class conciseness in many of the associations (more noticeably in the countryside), which is hardly in keeping with the need to reform our party, to make it electable.
Of course the overthrow of IDS was a massive set back for democracy within the party and I know a number of people who left directly as a result of the imposition of a leader by the PCP. So I think its important that the local parties have a lot of say in policy making. Bringing back the social club aspect of joining the party is a great idea, but we have to be inclusive, otherwise it will be self-defeating. Of course a lot of the blame for falling membership of all political parties is a direct result of the publics lack of respect for many of those that have been caught with their nose’s in the trough.
It will take a number of years to rebuild numbers and I suspect that there will come a time when some of the funding for the parties will have to come from the public purse. Not, I think you will agree a satisfactory state of affairs, but its hard to see another way of paying for the high cost of campaigns. In short we need to be a lot more flexible, and we should be happy to take on people who may have once not been the Conservative type. After all we are in the 21st century not the 19th ,class conciseness has no place in a modern political party

"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!"

Sally Roberts, to get the Blue Labour party elected, why bother?

A party member is basically served up with a take it or leave it party, for as there is no means to have any political debate within the party, and membership power to exert influence to change matters has been stripped from them, so they can either take what the party establishment has decided they should mindlessly think and promote or get the hell out, there isn't room for anything else. As such it would appear that people don't like the message the Party establishment are promoting, and as they have no means to change matters, they are doing the only thing left for them to do, i.e. vote with their feet as they walk out the Conservative party door!

Iain I find your comment rather sad and cynical to say the least! I have been a Conservative Party member for almost thirty years now and, as I have said before, have never felt patronised or that my voice wasn't listened to! Indeed, I am proud to be a "Cameroon" as some people disparagingly refer to us and it must be said that it was many of my own ideas about modernising the Party and making it appeal to all sections of the community which are now central to the policies and beliefs of what you dismissively refer to as "blue Labour" but what I prefer to think of as compassionate and inclusive Conservatism. The Party moved very much to the right during the campaigns leading up to the 2001 and 2005 Elections - and guess what, Labour won them both! The Cameron "brand" of Conservatism appeals to many of those in the centre politically and I believe we need to continue to reach out to those people and bring them across to us in order to win next time!

Its a small point but has anyone considered the impact of boundary changes on these numbers? I can think of one of the constituencies mentioned where almost all of the 200+ referenced have been caused by the move of a portion of the constituency over to a neighbouring one ahead of boundary changes due at the next election.

In terms of improving membership we actually have to be seen to be active doing and achieving things on a local basis and if we do that membership numbers should start to rise in each branch. It is however v slow and painful work.

Its also my view also that our politicians need to start living by the creed "let your yes be yes and your no be no" rather than engaging in a constant spin of the facts. It sounds trite but its time for much more honesty in politics of the sort that the ordinary man and woman on the street expects to see every day of his/her life.

I rejoined the party the other month, and so far have recieved a couple of e-mails, a horrible flimsy membership card and a donation letter. Worryingly I've heard diddly squat from my local association! Things such as better membership cards, occasional magazines or letters and a little more influence may not encourage more people to join, but would certainly make those that do feel that little bit more valued.

Sack Caroline Spelman, that would be a good start!!

ok we know that contrary to what central office was saying CF membership in certain universities accelerated at the end of hague and during duncan-smith and through the howard leadership but started dropping slightly under cameron. So this isn't an age thing. The problem is also amongst our youth members.

My theory is that Cameron's attempted ditching of conservative values during project cameron version 1 has had some long term consequences. One of these is the lack of enthusiasm amongst our most dedicated constituency activists. This is not helped by a continuing contempt in CCHQ for clarity, for example at selection meetings only one or two people know the vote totals for the candidates and so basically a CCHQ hack can probably rig the selection entirely if he feels like it. This is just an example of the sort of stuff which demotivates hard core activists.
The lack of enthusiasm amongst hard core activists, their lack of faith in the central party then translates itself to the rest of the association and momentum is lost and the constituencies loose activists.

The underpinning truth is that the party has no coherant values any more. On the great topics of the day , terrorism, security, economics, different people in the conservative party have completely opposing views.
This will casue serious problems in the lomg term but Camreon and his clique don't care, and why should they: the party machine will make them ministers so who cares ?

Position on Europe not clear.

The imasculation of Parliament and general disinterest in politics. The direct cemocracy card could boost membership but only if it is pursued completely rather than some half interested soundbites.

What am I now a member of? Since you ask about membership i am beginning to wonder. What does the Tory party stand for? I'm really not sure anymore.

When I last renewed my membership, I thought that;
a. there was too much pressure to get involved in party activity when some members simply wish to help privately (ie. financially).
b. the logo is splashed all over correspondence, making those in your household aware of your political affiliation which you may prefer to keep to yourself.

I find all the UKIP trolls on here hilarious! The thread was created to discuss why the Tory membership is declining and UKIP, which has seen its membership more than halved since 2004, have their astroturfers on here blaming Cameron for the Tory decline!

If UKIP were so good and speaking up for the true conservative (as more than one person has surmised) why are they about as popular as a turd in a swimming pool?

The simple answer to increasing and retaining membership is to give the members more. The list of actions in the first page, from the guy who's name I have forgotten, is spot on. I became chairman of my constituency 3 years ago. We have 30 members in all and had over 100 when I left. WEe increased the membership by putting on events (mostly without charging) and put out regular newsletters. We got plenty councillors elected in that time (going from 1 to 8) and ran effective local campaigns.


If your asking for ideas in relation to recruiting new members then how can comments possibly be off topic, more likely that some comments get up your nose and you remove them, getting fond of that sort of thing?
Debate and from that debate form a coherent policy on our future relationship with the European Union.
Debate and formulate a policy to balance the existing inequalities that devolution has brought about, Yes the English Question still needs to be addressed.
Oppose, as an opposition party should.
I would definitely join.

CCHQ probably don't have figures. Because not all constituencies operate on Merlin, or even Bluechip, it is no easy task to collate accurate figures.

As an Association Chairman and former Area Officer I know it is hard enough getting accurate data from small sets (constituency branches or area associations) let alone building an accurate picture for the whole country.

Add to this the fact that the 7,000 or so new student members from September are largely unrecorded on any central database and you can see that this figure is likely to be wrong.

One other thing is that membership as a whole is outdated in today’s society. People tend not to join or commit to anything these days... or when they do it is more likely to be a book-club!

DC has focussed on building up friends, donors, event attendee's and databases of contacts details we can use in an election. This we are successful at. Surely that is more valuable than membership (which to be frank, is just a costly hassle to administer).

In Rochester and Strood we recruited over 50 new members in 2008. I have sent out all renewals for 2009, and they are coming back fast!Regular contact with members, branches in all wards, regular social events, and open selection for all council candidates keeps everyone interested in their wards and branches. Good wishes to all activists for 2009.
Chris Buckwell
Assoc Organising Secretary

Kenneth Clarke, having sided with Tony Blair, should not be allowed anywhere near a Tory Cabinet, Shadow or otherwise.
We do not want the Euro, and my personal survey shows a majority of Tory Party members, want out of Europe.Kenneth Clarke was good when he was Chancellor, but his Labour leaning views are not wanted or needed. I for one, will seriously think about where I will put my X, at the General Election, if he comes back to Cabinet.He is the Tories Euro nightmare.
Alex Smith

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