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« Advice for Mr Davis | Main | Davis challenges Cameron over tuition fees policy »

Comments

CJ

As I recall, the change made after 2001 was to do with Foundation member status. For the last leadership election there was a problem with people who were Founder members being disenfranchised because although they were never required to pay the minimum subscription they had decreased the subscription level that they had been paying, eg they had been paying £10 a year but dropped it to £5 and so lost their vote.

The rule change was to enable people to retain Founder member status whatever level of subscription they paid, as long as they did not allow their membership to lapse. If they lapsed they would have to rejoin at £15 per person. The change had nothing to do with joint memberships for spouses because there has never been a special rate for joint memberships set centrally.

James Hellyer

Under the party constitution, all members of a constituency association are members of the national party. Setting a special rate centrally is irrelevant to that.

Louise

The Party rules, as set out in every piece of literature produced by the Party centrally, argued over at Convention meetings and passed on to Association offices continually states clearly that with the exception of Foundation members and members under 23 the membership fee is £15 per person per year. There have been Associations which have sold membership rates to married couples, to pensioners etc but they are the ones in the wrong and they are the ones disenfranchising their members. Cllr Iain Lindley is bang on the money when he suggests that ire be directed to those Associations which act as the independent fiefdoms of arrogant Chairmen and Agents - not at the Party centrally.

The Party rules are perfectly clear on this issue:

"3.1 The Association shall only comprise Party Members (as defined in Article 4 of the Constitution of the Party) who shall pay subscriptions in accordance with the provisions of Articles 5 and 6 of the Constitution."
(From the mandatory rules of Conservative Associations)

"2.5.3 (Members) shall pay such subscriptions (in the case of individuals) or affiliation fees (in the case of other members) as shall be determined from time to time by the Board having regard to the recommendations of the Committee on membership"
(From the Constitution of the Conservative Party)

The Board has determined that the fee to be regarded as a qualifying member is (when the exceptions above) £15 per year per person. Associations cannot and should not change this.

James Hellyer

Basic contract law makes the associations the agents of the party. As such the members cannot be disenfranchised if they have acted in good faith. If they paid their money under the impression that they were getting one thing, then the party and its agents not delivering that is the fault of the party and its agents. They - and not the members - should be the ones who are disadvantaged. If CCO cannot even control the terms of membership its agents offer, then it should have dopne something about it before now (i.e. when people could do something about it).

Henry Fitzpatrick

Quite right James, and plentiful grounds for a legal challenge if people decide to take it down that route. But since 'Louise' is being modest, allow me to help out as to her possible credentials: is it Louise Hall, by any chnace, secretary to the Board? If so, hardly a detached observer of the Board's actions, incompetent as they habitually are, and verging on the nonsensical as they sometimes are.

Louise - if you want to set out the Board meeting when it determined the £15 levy after listening to the committee on membership, do. You'll be searching through even this Board's creative minutes for a long, long time.

The Board has a pronounced history of acting ultra vires, and then counting on not getting sued. Maude in particular is rightly terrified that he is about to be sued, and exactly on the straightforward grounds that James H has set out (in addition to half a dozen others). I really wouldn't bet against this election being spun out for a few more weeks because of the haplessness of the Board. Tomorrow's meeting is going to be fun . . .

Peter Harrison

Where to start...

I am writing as a long standing Conservative supporter who has never been a member of the party. I am a member of the National Trust, amongst other organisations. In every case where joint membership is offered, it is at an increased subscription to that for single members. Even then, the second member doesn't always get a vote. If I had paid £15 to become a member, I would feel pretty miffed that a couple could get two votes for the same fee. I wouldn't necessarily expect them to pay double, but I would expect them to pay something extra.

As for the suggestion that contract law would allow couples to insist on two votes, it isn't as simple as that. If I were acting as an agent for, say, English Heritage and agreed to sell you the Tower of London, you would find that contract was unenforceable as I had acted outside my powers as agent. You could claim your money back from me (and I might end up in jail for fraud) but you wouldn't own the Tower of London.

The question is, what instructions have CCO issued to Associations. If CCO have told Associations that membership costs £15 per person and Associations have then sold joint membership for £15, the Associations concerned have been acting outside their powers and CCO are under no obligation to give two votes to such couples. An aggrieved couple would have a case against the Association for misrepresentation but they would not have a claim against CCO. However, if the instructions from CCO have led Associations to believe that joint memberships are valid with both members getting a vote, that's a different matter and the members concerned would have a claim against CCO.

I haven't seen the instructions from CCO so I don't know the answer here. I know that some here are of the view that only giving a single vote to joint members who have paid less than £30 will damage Davis. I have no idea whether or not they are right. However, which candidate would benefit shouldn't matter in determining what is right. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the current situation, I would expect the long term position to be that a married couple wanting two votes would need to pay more than a single person. If I join the Party, that would be my vote!

James Hellyer

"I would feel pretty miffed that a couple could get two votes for the same fee. I wouldn't necessarily expect them to pay double, but I would expect them to pay something extra."

Except they did pay extra - it's just that extra did not necessarily amount to two subscriptions.

"If I were acting as an agent for, say, English Heritage and agreed to sell you the Tower of London, you would find that contract was unenforceable as I had acted outside my powers as agent. You could claim your money back from me (and I might end up in jail for fraud) but you wouldn't own the Tower of London."

No, because English Heritage workers do not the power to sell its capital assets. However Associations are not analagous to workers. Associations are part of the party, and as such their actions more than those of an agent - they are also those of the principal.

Louise

"But since 'Louise' is being modest, allow me to help out as to her possible credentials: is it Louise Hall, by any chnace, secretary to the Board?"

Nope. Sorry to disappoint Henry, I am not Louise Hall - not quite sure why you would automatically jump to this conclusion.

However I have been in the recent past an Association Agent, and in the slightly less recent past an Association Officer and the issue of qualifying membership arises every year at AGMs and various selection meetings and the advice is always the same and is generally accepted apart from a few malcontents who like to come along and cause trouble. The rules and advice are very clear and are plainly issued to all Association offices - if Associations do not abide by them it is they who should be responsible not the Centre.

I am not the biggest fan of Central Office or the Board and wouldn't always defend decisions or proclamations, however this has always seemed to me a very simple issue and has frustrated me for a long time.

Tim Roll-Pickering

I know that some here are of the view that only giving a single vote to joint members who have paid less than £30 will damage Davis.

Technically it's not "a single vote to joint members" but one vote going to the first one registered on the database. This will usually be the husband. Now I haven't seen detailed breakdown, but I suspect that Cameron's lead is (comparatively) stronger with female members than with male members - if anything he could be the one hurt most by this. The vote really should require both joint members to co-cast it (and possibly allow for ticket splitting).

Peter Harrison

I accept that some (but not all) of the apparent joint members paid extra. However, if the Party does not have a joint membership rate, there can only be two members if two subscriptions are paid. I think it would be a good idea to have a joint subscription rate that was less than 2 times the single subscription and would allow two votes, but thinking it should be so does not make it so.

I did wonder, after I posted last night, if someone might suggest that my analogy didn't apply and that actions of Associations are also those of the principal. I thought about posting another analogy but decided it was time to go to bed! However, here is an alternative analogy.

Until recently, I was Captain of a Boys' Brigade Company. The Companies are clearly part of the BB - indeed, they ARE the BB. However, if I had attempted to sell Felden Lodge (the BB's national HQ) on behalf of the BB, the sale would have been invalid.

Even more pertinently, the BB is currently a boys only organisation. This is quite clear in the BB's Constitution and Regulations. Some BB Companies have ignored this and admitted girls into membership. If you were right, this would make the girls members of the BB as the actions of the individual Company would be binding on the BB. However, it has been established that legally this is NOT the case. Whatever action is taken by individual Companies, girls are not members of the BB and the actions of the Companies concerned are not binding on the organisation as a whole. They are therefore not covered by the BB's insurance (indeed, the whole Company may not be covered if it is working with girls), the BB does no have to make provision for them at national or regional events, they cannot receive BB awards such as the Queen's Badge and so on.

There has been a similar problem with boys who were below the age limit set in the regulations. Again, some Companies ignored the regulations and admitted young boys. Again, it has been clearly established that legally they are not members and that the actions of the Companies concerned are not binding on the BB.

I believe, if someone tried to test this, they would find that the same situation exists with regard to the Conservative Party. Any actions taken by Associations that go against the Party's Constitution, Regulations or instructions issued by the Party are not binding on the Party.

As I say, I am not judging the rights and wrongs of this particular situation as I don't know what instructions have been issued by the Party.

Lancake

There's some pretty dodgy legal advice in these comments!

When I signed the form to join the party, I imagine it said something along the lines of "I hereby agree to the terms and conditions of membership". Even if it didn't, it may well be implicit. So it's perfectly reasonable for the party to expect someone signing up for membership to have read and understood what they have signed up for. Unless they have been deliberately or negligently misled...

CCO needs a serious shake-up though. It doesn't sound like an election-winning organisation. And to think it was once the most feared political outfit in the western world...

James Hellyer

So it's perfectly reasonable for the party to expect someone signing up for membership to have read and understood what they have signed up for. Unless they have been deliberately or negligently misled...

Were you shown the terms and conditions of membership?

James Maskell

I wasnt shown any terms and conditions of membership when I signed up.

lancake

I couldn't tell you James - probably not - but I didn't ask either. Presumably the party's constitution is available to members.

It's a fair point that someone probably ought to have pointed out to joint members that they do not have the right to vote. I just think it might be more of a moral obligation than a legal one.

I also think the courts would be very unwilling to involve themselves in the internal processes of a political party.

On the flip side, if more people are entitled to vote than the constitution allows, this wouldn't look too good and would be even more open to challenge.

Cllr Iain Lindley

Technically it's not "a single vote to joint members" but one vote going to the first one registered on the database. This will usually be the husband

Incorrect. Under any constituency using BlueChip the first one registered on the database will be the person with the higher surname alphabetically.

James Hellyer

Under any constituency using BlueChip the first one registered on the database will be the person with the higher surname alphabetically.

Except married couples tend to have the same surname.

James Maskell

First name would be the tie-breaker? Say its John and Margaret Smith, John would get the vote...

Rick

Should do that at General Elections too - married couples to have only one vote since woman is a chattel as the Conservative Party recognises.

Cllr Iain Lindley

James (Maskell) is correct - the higher first name alphabetically would be the first registered person.

The comments to this entry are closed.

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