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« Can any of the leadership candidates define Britishness? | Main | Geoffrey Howe intervenes in leadership race »


Simon C

But be quick - the fee of £55 doubles if you apply after August 15. If you have any problems, ring the Conference Office at CCHQ. You will also need to get your application counter-signed by your association agent or an officer.

Simon C

"I think there's a problem if leaders are trying to sell a big idea that they themselves don't passionately believe in. We could see this with Michael Howard, where he delivered some nice speeches written by Francis Maude, but never followed up on their ideas because they weren't his own."

Quite agree James. Leaders never have time to write all the speeches and articles that they are required to make, but they do need to subscribe whole-heartedly to the underlying principles. We need emotional commitment to ideas, as well as intellectual understanding.

One small example of the dangers of a leader not being fully in tune came on Today this morning. Michael Howard was being quizzed about the article on judges published under his name today. He was asked about the words "aggressive judicial activism" to which he replied that he hadn't used the word "aggressive". Sadly, he (or rather the article) had used that phrase in the last paragraph. The point is that because he hadn't fully bought into the ideas in the article, he was forced onto the defensive about his choice of language.

This also illustrates the pitfalls of using over-strident language. Little would have been lost to the article if the word "aggressive" had not been used. Using it, and then being unable to justify it, caused a problem.

This is a small example, which of itself is of no real consequence. However, wider lessons about the party's strategy can and should be drawn from it, because if repeated day in day out, it becomes consequential.

Wat Tyler

Party Conference- Mrs Tyler and I are hoping to attend- for the first time ever. As members who joined nationally, rather than locally, it was actually a bit of a performance to get the apps countersigned. Plus you have to get photos countersigned. We ended up driving a 40 mile round trip to another constituency- where I had previously met the chairman- to get it done.

And having sent off the forms a couple of weeks ago, we've heard nothing. (Like my membership renewal which I sent off 6 weeks ago and have still heard nothing).

Meanwhile, those who've been to Blackpool conferences before utter frankly disturbing remarks about the dregs accomodation you get if you book too late.

Any tips?

James Hellyer

"As members who joined nationally, rather than locally, it was actually a bit of a performance to get the apps countersigned."

Let me guess, CCO hasn't deigned to tell your local Association that you exist...

Mark O'Brien

Wat, just grin and bear it!

On the question of Ken Clarke, it's been noted above that Clarke does appear to have wide popular support, if several opinion polls are to be believed. It's said that many people find him 'blokish': someone you could have a pint with, I've heard him described as. My feeling is that if he were leader, because he would be back in the limelight as a senior politician, any sheen he had developed on the backbenches as a cool kind of guy would instantly be lost. The attraction would wane as his power increases. Political parties do have their 'characters' and their grand old men who are revered and adored widely, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the public wants to have them as the party leader.

Just a theory, but there you have it!

James Hellyer

"On the question of Ken Clarke, it's been noted above that Clarke does appear to have wide popular support, if several opinion polls are to be believed."

I've always contended that these polls show how recognised Clarke is, not how much people like him. This line of thought is supported by the BMRB poll conducted after the success of the Olympic Bid, where 20% supported a Lord Coe leadership bid!


Thanks James&Simon.


Your experience Wat,mirrors mine exactly.I rejoined the party(nationally) at the beginning of the year after a ten year break.Trying to get information out of the local party has been extaordinairily difficult and even offers of help have been met with silence.It would be easy to give up.
It's only my hatred of the present government that's kept me (trying to be) active!

Simon C

Wat, don't get too impatient about the conference passes. They are all sent out together in a mass mailing about 2 or 3 weeks beforehand, with conference programmes etc etc.

Your membership is a seperate matter - although why did you apply centrally rather than to the local association, good grass-roots peasant that you rejoice in portraying yourself as?

Malcolm - I understand the frustrations. Have you met anyone in your local association yet? Or managed to get to any of their meetings & events? You should find it easier to get involved once you have seen a few faces. Keep pushing, show yourself around and you could even end up as Chairman with a vote on the leader in a few years time!

James Hellyer

My experience is the same as Wat's and Malcolm's! I moved back to Devon after a few years away and renewed my membership through CCO. Despite CCO getting me to set up and run a branch of Conservatives Direct in my constituency during the election, the local association only found out I was a member when I contacted them repeatedly.

It's no wonder some of don't trust CCO to do anything properly if they can't even manage the membership list.

James Hellyer

"You should find it easier to get involved once you have seen a few faces. Keep pushing, show yourself around and you could even end up as Chairman with a vote on the leader in a few years time!"

Surely that should say the "right to be consulted (but not necessarily listened to) on the choice of leader if your constituency has a Conservative MP."

Anyway, the key problem to getting involved with local associations is that many of them don't seem to anything beyond ladies' coffee mornings. When, for example, you are your constituency branch of Conservative Future, it doesn't generate much in the way of activity. That's why it's important to get involved with CPF meetings whenever you have the chance.

Simon C

Surely that should say the "right to be consulted (but not necessarily listened to) on the choice of leader if your constituency has a Conservative MP."

Absolutely. Sorry, I was thinking more about my post-lunch coffee than about precision of language (a huge mistake on this blog). I will try to be more careful.

Agree too about the CPF (Conservative Policy Forum for non-anoraks). In this day and age people will only join a political party if they are interested in politics. That interest needs an outlet for expression. The CPF has become tired & disused, and needs revitalising.


Excuse my ignorance(once again?!) but who are the the CPF and how can I join?
Like you Simon,I'm often thinking about lunch when I post to this blog.This I hope goes some way to explaining some of the horrendous spelling and horrible typos that litter my posts!

Simon C

The CPF used to exist in many constituency associations. CCHQ/CCO would send out a regular briefing on a policy issue, & invite the CPFs to comment. The centre would later issue a summary of the comments received & a response. The idea was that CPFs could thereby feed into the policy-making process.

I think that's right, although I haven't been involved in an active CPF for some time.

James Hellyer

That is indeed right, Simon. All the CPF branches should be feeding back on the general election campaign at present. I think they're meant to report by the middle of next month, so if you ask your local association office Malcolm, they should be able to tell you when and where the meeting is.


Thanks chaps

Simon C

We (or rather the Editor) could try to register Conservative Home as a virtual branch of the CPF...

Now then, what DID we think of the General Election campaign?


"I suspect I'm not alone in finding one of the offputting things about the Davis campaign the "calibre" of the MPs who back him ... shades of Planet Redwood?)."

This is a massive concern about "Desperate" Davis. I'll wager he won't be photographed near, for example, Eric Forth or Derek Conway in the near future. Unless he becomes leader and we find them in his Shadow Cabinet. Do we want them anywhere near the top of the party?


A very long subject!Probably shouldn't even start to reply as I'm in the office and supposed to be working.But in short it was a campaign that started brightly but got worse as it went.We had few ideas,were very unambitous and presented some of our ideas with absolutely no confidence (particularly over the economy).The worst moment for me was on the party leaders Question Time when MH was bitterly critical of Blairs lies over Iraq (which was good) but then blew it by saying he would have done the same even if he knew we were not threatened by WMDs!
In the end I was suprised by how well we did given the campaign.Sorry to sound so negative but that's how I feel.

Mark O'Brien

The problem with the worry that a Davis Shadow Cabinet would include some rather unusual figures is that all the people who would make up the core of the Shadow Cabinet have still got their names being touted for a leadership bid! Whoever succeeds Howard will be rather constrainted by many factors when he makes his Shadow Cabinet, not least because we already have a fairly good team on paper, with just a few holes here and there which will be easily filled up, and I don't think Davis would be too radical in his choices.

Jonathan Sheppard

Some interesting comments. on the subject of the election I am sure CCO ar ecollating reports from all the constituencies. I have just drafted my report on what worked and didn't in my campaign - so there will be quite a bit of reading to be done.

It seems to be a common complaint about activists who want to get invovled not being "welcomed" too well by their constituencies in some parts of the country. If you want me to raise it please pass on your details and I will see what can be done.

Party conference will be an interesting one this year. Hope to see many of you there. Show some pity for me - as I have to attend all three (with work) so will be somewhat weary after having to endure One Blackpool and Brighton week before ours even begins!


The biggest difficulty for me in choosing between the many potential candidates is the relatively small amount of solid positioning we have heard from any of them. Another poster comments above on the eventual withdrawl of Willetts, and whilst I don't see him as a Leader, it is worth noting that he is almost the only one who has really given a narrative on what modern Conservatism is for, and why we would be different. We need to tell a story of life in a new Conservative Britain, to start doing this as quickly as possible, and until Cameron does this convincingly I will continue to ally myself behind Davis. That said, I will be watching very carefully as the various bids evolve to see which camp Willetts becomes the intellectual powerhouse for, as he could provide a turning point for me. Personally, I would love to see an alliance of the Davids - but no, I'm not saying which ones...

Jonathan Sheppard

Richard - don't tease the readers like that - do tell!

James Hellyer

Out of interest, could "old Pope" Ken Clarke pursue an "old cardinals" policy? Who would he have in cabinet? Sir Peter Tapsell?

Or is the young cardinals policy simply stating he has no choice?


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