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« The cosmetic, Soho and Easterhouse modernisers | Main | Who is David Cameron? »


James Hellyer

Hooray for John Redwood! Hopefully some more MPs will break ranks to speak up for the membership.

I found this snippet quite disturbing:

"In an e-mail to Tory MPs, Mr Maclean wrote: "Let us talk about this in Michael's [Howard] discussion forums, not on the Today Programme"

So not only do they appear to want to change the rules to disenfranchise the party membership, they want to restrict debate on this to these closed shop forums. Not only may I not get a vote on losing my vote, I may not even be able to part in the discussion about that decision!

I also really don't like the sound of this:

"This is Michael's Clause 4 moment... Many local parties do excellent work but some are a shambles and the present system for choosing Parliamentary candidates is a joke. And frankly, so are some of the candidates we put up at the Election. There were still too many 'Tim Nice But Dims'."

The constituency associations select candidates from those people on the approved candidates list who apply to the constituency.

It seems a bit rich to condemn the associations' choices from that pool of candidates, when the pool itself is selected and approved by CCO.

If they think a lot of these candidates are useless, why on earth did CCO approve them in the first place?

This is no different from using IDS as an excuse to take away the members' votes in leadership contests.

If the people who select the candidates aren't happy with the selection of someone from the list they provide, perhaps the fault is theirs in composing such a list.

This is not the Conservative party's "Clause 4 moment" - although stopping it might be.

Scrapping Clause 4 was symbolic of Labour's abandonment of the failed policies of its past. By contrast, centralising power in the Party organisation is a betrayal of Conservative principles. In the last election we stood on a manifesto that claimed to take power and responsibility from elites and return it to the common person. Why should the electorate ever believe us if we don't practice what we preach?

Stopping the centralising, interfering side of conservatism could be the true "Clause 4 moment".

Simon C

There is something pretty unattractive about this "blame it on the members" approach from the centre.

As previous postings have pointed out, there is little evidence to show that, as a corporate body, our MPs have exercised much by way of sound judgement over the last few years.

To style this as a "Clause 4" moment is entirely facile - Clause 4 represented a significant point of long-term socialist principle. Internal rules about party elections are hardly the same league. This is just the sort of navel-gazing debate we should be trying to avoid.

There is a pretty straightforward point about fair dealing & misrepresentation here. We have been recruiting members and taking their money on the basis that we are a democratic party and they will have a say in the leadership election. On that basis, the very least that we should be offered is one member one vote as part of an electoral college. If individual members don't have an individual vote, we would rightly be accused of taking money under false pretences.

The idea floated in one paper today of a 2-group electoral college, comprised of MPs and association chairmen, is laughable.

We are also missing a strategic trick. It may have been a long time since the last Labour election, but there's one on the way. They have an electoral college system, with a large chunk going to the union vote. We will be squandering the chance to draw comparisions between our more open and democratic system, if we have, ef, changed it to one that's rather less democratic and open than it used to be.

And: what price "trust the people" if we can't trust our own membership?

Sean Fear

Quite right. Some "modernising" Conservative MPs give the impression that they have nothing but contempt for those who vote for them, and outright loathing for those who campaign for them. Then they wonder why people think they are "nasty".

If a local association picks a dud candidate, it will only have an impact in that constituency. If the party centrally picks dud candidates, then that will have an impact across the board. That is why candidate selection should be decentralised as much as possible.

The Parliamentary party has done nothing over the past 15 years to suggest that it can be trusted with the selection of the party leader.

James Hellyer

I think the people who are in favour of centralisation like the idea because their views are not representative of the party or the country.

"The rules would also see local parties presented with a 'narrower' choice of parliamentary candidates in order to increase the number of young, gay, female and ethnic minority Tory MPs."

This would actually mean the candidates composition only reflected a narrow band of society: the one the liberati move in.

Perhaps these "modernisers" need to realise that not everywhere in Britain is like our inner cities or a BBC drama.

We should ensure that there are no bars to people becoming candidates or being selected because of colour, age, gender or sexual orientation, but to prescribe those attributes is positive discrimination of the worst kind.

Candidates will be easily perceived, as not being selected on merit and activists may well be less enthusiastic about campaigning for people imposed by the centre.

This is a bad idea.

How can anyone take us seriously as a party that believes in taking power away from distant elites and returning it to the people, if our own leadership comprises natural centralisers?

Adrian Owens

After our money as well as our votes?

Not only do the centralisers want to relieve us of our votes in any leadership, our local finance is at risk too (see link to Evening Standard article tonight).

I've just phoned our Association Treasurer. We have £25,000 of our Association money "deposited" at headquarters, but with press reports of large overdrafts and then this Evening Standard article I've requested an urgent rethink!

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