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« Caption competition (2) | Main | One-third of parliamentary party backs David Davis »


Adrian Owens

As an underdecided in the Leadership contest, this alleged proposal from the Davis camp has me warming to their man.

One of the great unspokens in the whole "21st century party" proposals was the entire absence of any proposals to improve the way in which the party sets policy. While not wanting to advocate the chaotic systems adopted by Labour and LibDems at their conferences in the past, there surely has to be scope for much more member involvement in policy-making. This could be via the new -style conferences mooted by DD or via a relaunched and inclusive version of the old CPC.

Now that members have retained their voting rights, let's ensure that our views help to shape election-winning policies.

James Hellyer

Attendance was down at the Labour conference because lots of their Scottish contingent were busy campaigning in by-elections.

Selsdon Man

This year's Spring Conference was much shorter than the previous one at Harrogate.

I favour the current format as it enables, via the fringe, party activists to debate and engage with non-party organisations.

However, I am dismayed that we are going to Blackpool again. The Winter Gardens are not suitable as a venue for a modern conference. As for the hotels and restaurants, my comments are unprintable. We should follow Labour's example and go elsewhere.

Jonathan Sheppard

The proposal to change Conference is a sentiment I wholeheartedly support. Firstly someone may be able to correct me - but I was lead to believe the Conservatives are the only ones who fail to make a profit out of them as they hived the organisation off to CCOCL. Is this still the case?

I have posted many times about having to go to all three with work and I think there are some interesting observations.

Firstly the Lib Dem Conference has become extortionate to go to as a corporate organisation (especially when one considers the number of MPs who attend). I had to pay a "Late fee" but even so - £310 for a two day pass is a bit steep!

Labour Conference is massive. You have to book hotels a year in advance, and even then we had people staying in Worthing for the Brighton Conference. Whilst the number of MPs attending may fluctuate - it is huge in terms of exhibitors, media and the likes - primarily because they are the party of Government. Nothing substantive happens as far as I can see for members in terms of policy making. Its all staged managed these days. Labour jhave opted for Manchester next year.

Tory Conference in recent years is less well attended than Labour because they aren't in Goverment - and the fact that are membership has a different profile.
The positive aspects of Conference as a member ex PPC/ Adviser etc is that its the one time of year you can catch up with friends from across the country to see what they have been up to and what works in their neck of the woods.

The negatives is that unless you are there with work - you basically have to take a week off work - treck to one side of the country - and actually there isn't any policy making going on. My gut instinct is that I favour the proposals put forward by the Davis camp as a way to make Conference more relevant to todays world.

Mark Fulford

I'd be more interested in ideas about improving all aspects of how the party engages with its members. I joined the Conservative Party (online) about 6 months ago. So far, apart from a receipt for my £15, I haven't had one piece of correspondence as a result. And this in the age of e-mail! You'd have thought I might get some info on attending conference, for example. In my mind it begs an unnerving question: if this is how they run the party...?

James Hellyer

The party's e-mail newsletter are something you have to sign up for seperately:

Jonathan Sheppard

Mark it should also then be down to your local association who I would have hoped would have been told you had joined as a National Member. It's this type of thing which does frustrate me. If someone takes the time and effort to pay ove £15 - we as a party should engage with them straight away!

Cllr Iain Lindley

Regardless of attendance Party Conference is the only time of year the Party can receive free, blanket media coverage, and as Conferences have been media set-plays for decades I can't say I'm wild about surrendering this. The media would cover a "mini-break" in the same way they cover Spring Forum - barely.

I'm afraid this announcement has the same feel as a New Labour press release - nice headline but no substance.

Jonathan Sheppard

Im particularly convinced that the media coverage of our conferences in previous years has been particularly helpful.

One conference was all about whether the knives were out for IDs, this one will all be about leadership elections. The public quite frankly aren't too interested in the internal workings of the party (and rightly so).

If you look at Labours Conference - this years will be remembered for Mr Wolfgang - hardly helpful to them.

James Hellyer

who I would have hoped would have been told you had joined as a National Member

CCO is notoriously bad at telling local associations about new central members...

Jonathan Sheppard

Absolutely James. It does make me somewhat concerned regarding sending postal ballots out too!

Cllr Iain Lindley

In my experience CCO send out an updated list of national members every six months at the very most.

One of the more sensible proposals in the "21st Century Party" document was the abolition of the difference between national and constituency membership and just have one type of member. I hope that still comes to pass.

James Hellyer

The only difference between the two types of member is who collected your subscriptions. No matter whether you pay locally or nationally, you are automatically a member of both constituency and central party.

Frankly, I think six months is a ridiculous amount of time to leave between updates (I renewed my membership centrally and only got the local list earlier by pestering the local office!).

Hopefully this won't effect the leadership election; consolidating two sets of lists shouldn't be beyond the ability of even CCO!

Mark Fulford

Now I’m even more appalled. This is the joining blurb from

But there is so much more to do and we need your support. By joining as a member, rather than just being a supporter, you will have a direct say in the selection of the Party’s candidates, receive news and updates from the national Party and local Conservatives, have access to regular social and political events and meet like-minded people - including Party Conferences, and be able to help influence the direction of the policies of the next Government.

This set up expectations, and obviously opens the door to disappointment when they're not met. There's absolutely no mention of the distinction between National and other types of membership.

James Hellyer

Mark, there is no distinction. All that's happened is CCO took your details and money rather than the constituency taking it. All it actually means is that CCO has to tell your constituency you joined, rather than the constituency telling CCO you joined!


Just a quick comment from a long time lurker about the national/local membership thing - Mark, part of the problem might be that you are marked as not wanting contact from the local party. I'm not sure which way round it is done on line but you either have to opt in or out of local contact, and if CCHQ has told your local association that you don't want to be contacted by them you won't be. You might want to contact your association personally if you haven't already to check that out and change it if need be.

James Hellyer

I've checked, CJ, and the option to not be contacted by your local association isn't offered online.

Mark, you should have had more than a receipt by now anyway. Have you had your membership card through from CCO?

Mark Fulford

No membership card. My wife has reminded me that we did receive one thing: an invitation to a local fund-raising concert. That must mean that I’m registered locally. My point, however, is not to solve a micro-complaint (I’ll contact my local assoc. to make sure they’re aware that I’m ready to help) but to highlight a macro-problem: the party is not cultivating its members effectively. Effective communication is essential to winning the next election. The difference between a 4 day and a 2+2 day conference format is not.

Daniel Vince-Archer

I'll agree there are problems with signing up online. My membership of the party lapsed quite some time ago and last week I decided it was worth renewing my membership after all this time (it only costs me £3 so why not?!). Except the website had different ideas and once I'd managed to clear all the obstacles and enter all my details, I was told that I wouldn't be able to renew my membership online after all. Perhaps it's my punishment for voting UKIP in the 2004 European elections?

James Hellyer

Yes, maybe disenfranchisement is your punishment...

Daniel Vince-Archer

That punishment was probably conceived by our good friend Jack. Anything stronger than that would go against his wishy-washy lefty beliefs ;-)

Cllr Graham Smith

On the matter of National Membership, Central Office do send out routine updates to Associations. For example, we have within the last fortnight received such an update listing all National Members thought to be liing in our Constituency and will be sending details of our local events to all those who did not tick the "no local contact" box.

So, if you have joined the Conservative Party since January 2005, you should shortly be hearing from your local Association who now have your details!

Cllr Graham Smith

On the subject of one annual conference or two mini-conferences, might I please make the point that commercial sponsorship subsidises our ticket prices? I understand it much more difficult to attract the same level of sponsorship for shorter events.

If we seek to be an inclusive party, it is necessary to attract more people from all walks of life to participate. For that reason, I liked the "Listening to Britain" initiative especially when being a member of the local Association's Conservative Policy Forum meant your comments were heard by the people who make Party policy.

Selsdon Man

Demolish the Winter Gardens and build a new conference centre. Add a few decent hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues and Blackpool just might be worth going back to.

Until then its Bournemouth and Brighton or Manchester or Birmingham.


Mark,I had absolutely the same very bad experience as you when I joined via the web-site.It seems that it is up to you to make contact with the local party rather than the other way round.Whoever wins MUST shake up CCO currently its performance is lamentable.
Amazed Jonathan to hear you say that the Labour conference was well attended,all the TV pictures I saw indicated hundreds of empty seats.It made me feel rather good actually,please don't disillusion me and tell me that there were thousands of well motivated Labour supporters at fringe debates instead?

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