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« Welcome | Main | Who's backing who? (3) »


James Hellyer

As we have singularly failed to influence most of our MPs, does anyone have any ideas about how we can persuade our National Convention to stand up for us?

Wat Tyler

Yes, we've really got to try because this anti-democratic lurch backwards cannot stand.

On our side we've got commitment, time (at least I have), and the internet. We must be able to get something done before September.

Ed, you're a plugged in kind of guy. How can we get hold of a list of Convention members?

Sean Fear

We only need to get one third of them to win.


On, when you click 'join the party', it says:

"Here you can become a member of the most open and democratic British Party. After the first three months of your membership, you will be entitled to a vote in Party ballots."

Is legal action possible by someone who joins right now?

James Hellyer

Haven't you noticed that the wording has changed, Buxtehude. It used to say:

"Being a member of the Conservative Party gives you a say in the running of the Party both locally and nationally, including a right to vote in the election of its leader".


No, I didn't see the previous wording. When did it change?

But my point is, the current wording is untrue: "Here you can become a member of the most open and democratic British Party." Quite clearly, it can no longer make that claim.

If the change from 'election of its leader' to 'party ballots' was done in anticipation of tonight's result, then it shows breathtaking cynicism, that they STILL make a sales feature of being democratic, even as they take way democracy. How like the dear old Soviet Union.

I can hardly contain my disgust at Michael Howard (who, having murdered the Conservative campaign, now disembowels the corpse), and the 126 other MPs who have acquiesced. As far as I'm concerned, they don't deserve one penny of our money, nor the lifting of a finger to help them deliver leaflets etc.

This is a party which has no self-respect, just self-loathing. It deserves to fail. Unless, that is, we ordinary members can come up with a cunning plan...

Michael McGowan

The message to the MPs is simple: no taxation without representation. If they want members' contributions in terms of time, cash and votes, they have to treat them as adults, not children, and give them a proper democratic say. If they don't, that's fine.....but members have got the message loud and clear that MPs want to perpetuate an ingrown club, rather than develop an outward-looking broad-based party.

Steve Hampson

Reply to James Helyer.
Not quite a magic circle.
National Convention consists of, amongst others,
All Association Chairmen.
All regional and area officers(usualy chair,2 deputies +2 others)+ officers of The CP of Scotland,Wales etc. + a few other great and good . Suggest you lobby your Ass. Chairman for starters

Sean Fear

Given that most of us will have recieved a membership card informing us that we have the right to vote for the leader, and given that we have paid for that membership card, it seems at least arguable that removing that right without our consent is a breach of contract. Who would contribute towards getting counsel's opinion on this point?

James Hellyer

Sean, on my membership card it says that the right to vote in party elections is "subject to the current rules of the party."

If there was a similar disclaimer on the website or application form, then you'd have no case. If it is just the disclaimer on the card, it has no force as you only find out about the conditions AFTER you paid your money over.

Mark O'Brien

I'm keen to ensure members keep a strong say over the leadership election, but does anyone else see a disturbing trend developing?

Since 1997 (and even before, I suppose) the Conservative parliamentary party has suffered from tremendous splits over all manner of issues - so much so that we have sometimes looked ready to collapse as a political institution. Now that the parliamentary party has matured a little, they don't seem to be at each other's throats quite so much. Nowadays, the party is still at war with itself, but now its a division between the members and the MPs/Central Office. Even thinking about changing the leadership rules could turn out to have damaged the party inexorably for many years to come.

medicine man

I'm with Winston on this - listen to the Rank & File, but the bottom line is that they are not capable of picking us an electable leader. Leave it to the MPs.

Sean Fear

My card for Brent North, James, has no such qualification - it simply refers to OMOV elections for leader as being one of the benefits of membership.

My card for Hertsmere does contain that qualification.

Sean Fear

And the Members website says the following:-


Voting Rights

One member, one vote in the election of the Leader of the Party *

A vote in the selection of candidates for parliamentary, local government and European elections *

A vote in the election of constituency association officers

Representation on the governing Board of the Party

Direct influence in the development of policy

The opportunity to meet influential, like minded people

The chance to attend Party Conference

Access to an Ethics and Integrity Committee to ensure high standards

A range of benefits including the Conservative Heartland magazine

* new members will gain voting rights after a three-month qualifying period.

Mark O'Brien

"listen to the Rank & File, but the bottom line is that they are not capable of picking us an electable leader"

They've had one opportunity, and that time Ken Clarke wouldn't have been a good leader. He's too up himself and his views particularly on Europe are way out of sync with the rest of us. It was arguably the MPs who screwed it up in 2001 because they kicked out Portillo: Portillo vs. IDS might have been a real contest. Besides, IDS on paper had all the right ideas and seemed a very capable leader. Only in practice was he less than satisfactory, and that was only when the backbenchers behind him started kicking up at his style of leadership: again, the MPs causing the problems.

James Hellyer

If the disclaimer is only made known after you join, then they have little defence against current members, in mt opinion.

You have to be made aware of the details before a transaction takes place. That's why car parks put their "no responsibility" speel at the gates - they were told they couldn't impose the term after you paid, say by putting it on the ticket.

Richard Allen

"listen to the Rank & File, but the bottom line is that they are not capable of picking us an electable leader"

I don't know how many times this needs to be said before people like you will get it. The IDS debacle was not the fault of the members. We hardly had a choice. Clarke's views on Europe are unacceptable to a majority of party members and he would have most likely caused a split in the party.

Simon C

Chairman Maude announced, when he launched the consultation process, that these reforms were about "the way we do politics as a party". That is profoundly depressing.


MPs are 200 members out of around 300,000. Whole areas of the country will not be represented at all if this is allowed to stand. It is a step back to accept that they alone should choose the leader. I hope and believe there is a real possibility of overturning this when the National Convention votes in September.

What is needed is to build a consensus of chairmen and others on the convention who are prepared to put their names on a list saying they will vote to retain the voting rights of members, just as those MPs signed a letter to the Telegraph.

Members of the Convention must not allow themselves to believe that they should bow to the demands of MPs, or the Board. They need to show that they can act independently to defend the interests of the members. Once a credible number have signed up others will join them.

Are MPs our masters, or are they equal partners in the party?

Sean Fear

"Are MPs our masters, or are they equal partners in the party? "

I'm quite happy for MPs to be *senior* partners within the Party, but definitely not our masters.


While it is comforting to dream about the National Convention blocking the MPs vote, in practice I think it highly unlikely the convention will do so. There are patterns of deference that would have to be overcome. Plus, even if the convention members privately disagree with what the MPs did, they are unlikely to wish to create a "constitutional crisis" by rejecting the MPs decision. If there's lobbying to be done, lobby the MPs to choose a leader committed to party democracy.

Tom Ainsworth

Unfortunately, the fact that so many MPs have already declared which candidate they support suggests they are unlikely to be influenced by such lobbying.

Off Message

I'm strongly in favour of the members having the right to vote for the leader. If not directly (my preference) then through an electoral college.

This increasingly self-righteous thread, however, ignores the fact that members don't (for the most part) seem to want a say in the leadership election, or, to put it more accurately, think that MPs are better placed to choose their leader than we are.

One argument put is that local members don't choose who leads the group on the local council or who is put forward for mayor of the town.

Despite banging on about the fact that members should keep the right to vote on the leader I've found very little support for this view among others. Perhaps we should now move on rather than risk damaging the party. If members don't want a say it seems ironic to force it on them.

James Hellyer

"If members don't want a say it seems ironic to force it on them."

The voting wasn't compulsary!

If you don't want to vote, then don't vote. But that's precious little ground to take everybody else's vote away.

Michael McGowan

The MPs have made clear their contempt for their fellow Party members. That contempt should be reciprocated. This is a long game and the MPs will come running when they need support at election time. They may be in for an unpleasant shock.

Francis Maude, the latest in a long line of haughty Tory grandees, seems to be living in a world of total make-believe. Having acknowledged that Party support has collapsed outside the south-east, he advocates a leadership selection procedure which gives totally disproportionate influence to MPs representing the South-East. What message does that send to Party members and supporters in the cities, the Midlands, the North, Wales and Scotland?

I agree with the comments about the 2001 leadership election. 40% of Party members voted for Ken Clarke. So much for the lie that members are all extremely right wing. I was one of those who voted, reluctantly, for Clarke. He was a bad candidate then and will be worse now. He is a "good bloke" but is bumptious, arrogant and openly contemptuous of anyone who doesn't share his views. Hardly a unifier, especially given his ultra-dogmatic views on the European Union. He hasn't had an original idea in years and is unlikely to come up with any fresh thinking now.

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