Saturday, July 16, 2011

2011 archive July

House of Lords Reform - Did you know?
As no new peers of Scotland were created after the Act of Union in 1707, their numbers gradually dwindled, and since the enactment of the Peerage Act 1963 all holders of Scottish peerages had a right to membership of the House of Lords.    The position and rights of Scottish peers in relation to the House of Lords was unclear during most of the eighteenth century.   In 1711, James Douglas, 4th Duke of Hamilton, a peer of Scotland, was appointed Duke of Brandon in the Peerage of Great Britain.   When he sought to sit in the House of Lords, he was denied admittance, the Lords ruling that a peer of Scotland could not sit in the House of Lords unless he was a representative peer, even if he also held a British peerage.  They reasoned that the Act of Union 1707 had established the number of Scots peers in the House of Lords at no more and no less than sixteen.   In 1782, however, the House of Lords reversed the decision, holding that the Crown could admit anyone it pleases to the House of Lords, whether a Scottish peer or not, subject only to qualifications such as age and citizenship.

Currently the hereditary peers elect 93 from amongst their number to sit in the House of Lords. Voting by proxy in the House of Lords was an ancient custom, often abused.   In Charles II's reign the Duke of Buckingham used to bring twenty proxies in his pocket, and the         result was that it was ordered that no peer should bring more than two.    In 1830 to 1867 inclusive proxies were only called seventy-three times; and on the 31st of March 1868, on the          recommendation of a committee, a new standing order was adopted by which the practice of calling for proxies on a division was discontinued.

In January I was told that James Murdoch was favourable to supporting the Alternative Vote in the referendum.   Subsequently Jeremy Hunt gave permission to News International to proceed with their bid for BSkyB.    Subsequently The Sun launched a strong campaign against the Alternative Vote.    The Prime Minister launched his campaign against the Alternative Vote.    Were all these connected?   I think we should be told.

Zac Goldsmith - an article written by Zac
Before I became a member of parliament in May last year, my limited experience told me that British democracy was flawed. After just over a year as an MP, I now know that it is utterly dysfunctional. Politicians are already deeply disliked, and the expenses scandal didn't help. But, despite the horror stories, the real scandal has absolutely nothing to do with expenses. It is that parliament routinely fails in its most basic duties.
A backbench MP is paid to do two things - hold the government to account and vote in a way that is good for the people they represent. The present structures ensure they do neither, and the effect is that decisions taken by a very small number of politicians are subjected to virtually no scrutiny at all.
You have only to look at the maths. Nearly a third of MPs are on the "payroll". That includes ministers, shadow ministers and also parliamentary private secretaries, who are not paid, but who are bound by the code of loyalty that requires them always to vote with the government. Of the remaining two-thirds of MPs, most want to join the payroll. That requires a political lobotomy, and unthinking submission to the party line.
Loyalty is one thing, but we have reached an extreme. If a backbench MP speaks out against a government decision, it is seen as an act of aggression. If he tables a minor amendment, it's worse still. And if he votes against his party, it's an act of career suicide.
Consider the vote at the start of the year on the proposed forest sell-off. Many coalition MPs were bitterly opposed. And yet, when the division bell sounded, just seven voted against. Had all those who opposed it used their vote accordingly, the policy would have been buried instantly and the government would have been reminded that parliament exists.
It is tempting to blame the whip system, but that misses the point. The whips have a crucial job to do. They are there to help push through the government's agenda. It is the job of backbenchers to resist that pressure.
That doesn't mean endless gridlock and rebellion. It means creating a healthy tension, so that the executive is required to think before acting and to take on board the advice of the legislature. I do not believe we will have a vibrant and functioning democracy without a more independent legislature. Unfortunately, none of the reforms on offer today is designed to address that core issue.
There are, however, some simple reforms that would help improve British democracy. For example, we should end the ludicrous situation whereby a handful of MPs can kill off a bill by "talking it out" and pushing it off the agenda. We should ensure that, as the number of MPs is reduced as planned, so too is the number of MPs on the payroll. If not, the balance will become still more skewed. The language used in parliament could be much clearer. It's an embarrassing secret that if you were to stand outside the lobby after a division and ask MPs what they had just voted for, only a handful would be able to tell you. Why not accompany every bill, motion and amendment with a plain English explanation before asking MPs to vote on it?
Overall, though, if we want to counter the inability (or unwillingness) of parliament to scrutinise the executive, we need something bolder. A very significant start would be for the coalition partners to honour a pre-election promise made by all of the then party leaders. Following the expenses scandal, each of the leaders made a promise to allow constituents to "recall" their representative between elections. That pledge has, in effect, been scrapped.
True recall, indeed true democracy, allows people to remove their representative if most constituents have lost confidence in him or her, for whatever reason. It is a right that should exist for voters at every level, from councillor to MP. This is not a new idea. There have been failed recall attempts in California, including one against Ronald Reagan in 1968. However, in 2003, voters successfully recalled the sitting governor, Gray Davis, and replaced him at a new election with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
That couldn't be further from where we are today in Britain. Under the current rules, a new MP could theoretically move to another country for five years and leave constituency work to a caseworker. Local voters would be lumbered with a useless representative until the next general election.
Most MPs occupy "safe" seats and are hard, if not impossible, to shift. The pressure they feel is from their party, not from the voters. Recall would keep even these MPs on their toes, because a member of one party could be replaced by another from the same party.
The coalition insists that it will still introduce a version of recall, but the small print makes it worse than useless. Instead of handing the decision to the voters, the government will pass it up to MPs on a parliamentary committee. Its members alone will decide if a member has behaved badly enough to be "recalled".
I have tabled an Early Day Motion calling for true Recall, and so far, nearly 50 MPs from all parties have endorsed it. I hope many more will join them. With enough support, we will be able to facilitate a debate on the Chamber followed by a vote. And if it goes the right way, I have no doubt Parliament, and indeed democracy will benefit.
Zac Goldsmith is the MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston

Conservative Associations in Aylesbury, Chesham and Amersham and Buckingham have decided to withhold quota money from Central Office because of the Party's support for HS2.   This is all perfectly legitimate.    However we are told by conservativehome that the Beaconsfield association have decided to donate a £1,000 to the Anti HS2 campaign.   Think again Beaconsfield.   The Objects of the Beaconsfield constituency are as follow:
The Objects of the Association shall be to sustain and promote the objects and values of the Party in the Parliamentary constituency of Beaconsfield("the Constituency"); to provide an effective campaigning organisation in the Constituency; to secure the return of Conservative candidates at elections; and to raise the necessary funds to achieve these objectives; to contribute to the central funds of the Party.
By no stretch of the imagination can you say that a donation to a campaigning group which is opposed to Conservative Party policy is promoting the objects and values of the Party in the constituency.   In other words the Association is acting "Ultra Vires".   If I were an officer of the Constituency I would be a bit worried that I became financially liable for £1,000.     You can be sure of one thing.   With the amount of money involved in the HS2 project there will be some highly paid lawyers looking at the funding of the HS2 campaign just to make sure that its funding is legitimate.

Party Membership
Every time there are local elections you will find that somewhere in the country a long standing Party member has decided for one reason or another to stand against the official Party candidate.   They nearly always lose.   There is then a debate about what should happen to the membership of the long standing member, who is a good old soul really and has worked so hard for the Party in the past.   Let me tell you.
Under the Party Constitution Schedule 6. 13 it states the following
Any Party Member who stands in an election against an official party Candidate will have his name removed from the National Membership List and be expelled from the Party forthwith.
There we are, no debate required.    In the act of standing the member has excluded themselves from the Party.    They are no longer a member.

Liberal Democrat Influence
Many Conservatives complain about the disproportionate influence that the Liberal Democrats have on Coalition policies.    Part of the remedy lies with themselves.     Look what has happened on reform of the National Health Service.   The Lib-Dems signed up to the reforms, Nick Clegge signed them off.   Then suddenly they had to be changed.   The reason is that the Liberal Democrats are a democratic party and they are beginning to see the value of using democracy to get their way.    Unlike the Conservative Party, the Lib-Dems actually debate issues at their conferences, so at their Spring Conference it was natural that the subject of NHS Reform should come up.   It did and the conference passed thirteen changes they wanted to see in the Health Service reform package.   This now became Party policy.    The Lib-Dem MPs were given the backbone to stand up and demand that the changes be made regardless of what had been agreed beforehand.   This strengthened Nick Clegge's hand.   The end result was that the Tories had to give way on no less than eleven of the thirteen demands.   The Conservative Party cannot use this tool of pressure because it does not allow motions at their conferences let alone any debate on policy.
We will shortly be approaching the Autumn Party conferences.   Expect to see another issue chosen by the Lib-Dems used to pressurise changes to Coalition policy.   What will it be this time?    Trident, Green policies, who knows, but what we do know is that the Coalition will make another "U" turn, just to keep the Lib-Dem members happy.    A triumph for democracy!

Lord Adonis
The Lords is much overrated as an assembly of the wise and the independent. Most non-party peers make little if any contribution to the house, while most party appointees are long-retired former MPs, councillors or failed Commons candidates. Almost all are very old and very "ex". And they are fairly random in their activities. The Lords has no committees whatever that scrutinise large areas of government activity, including foreign affairs, defence, welfare or the public services.
Interesting comment!

2011 archive (Jan-June)

Party Membership
Extract from today's Mail on Sunday
By James Forsyth
     Reviving Conservative Party membership across the country is not going to be done by updating the coffee morning for the 21st Century or laying on special trips for them. Instead, it needs members to be given a real, substantive reason to sign up.
In the modern age, where people don’t join the Young Conservatives to meet a future spouse at a ball, they need to be given a political, not a social reason to become a member of the party. They need to be offered, at the very least, the chance to pick their own candidate and probably far more than that. How many more people would sign up as Tory members if it gave them a real chance to set party policy on tax?
The Cameroons argue that the membership is too small to make this a sensible move, that the result would be unrepresentative candidates and policies that were unsellable to the public. But unless the party in the country is given some real power, it will continue to wither away. If the Prime Minister’s own association can add only 20-odd members in the year its MP enters Downing Street, what hope is there for other local parties?
If the leadership are not prepared to trust their members with some real powers, then they are going to have to find a whole other way to organise the party. Otherwise, it is going to die under them

Read more:
James Forsyth sums up the position exactly
Many condolences to Christopher Shale's family

House of Lords isn't getting with the programme

by Openeurope
Almost entirely unnoticed by the UK media (with the exception of the Guardian), the House of Lords is doing its best to rip the heart out of the Government's EU Bill and accompanying "referendum lock". The Government last night suffered its third and fourth defeats on the Bill in a week, with peers voting by 242 to 209, to modify the Bill's "sovereignty clause" and by 209 to 203 to introduce a "sunset clause", which would see the entire Bill lapse at the end of this Parliament.

We have 
always felt the sovereignty clause the less important aspect of the Bill compared with the referendum lock but the latter, designed to give Parliament and voters a say over any significant future transfers of power to Brussels, has now been attacked and severely mauled by peers.

On Monday, peers voted to restrict the issues on which referendums should be held to only three: joining the euro, the creation of a "single, integrated military force", and changes to border control. This would leave the public without a say over several important issues such as whether a future UK Government could sign up to the creation of a new European Public Prosecutor or give up arguably the UK's most important veto of all: it's right to veto the multi-annual EU budget.

And, in the words of Foreign Office Minister Lord Howell, these amendments completely "undermine the direct and frank and honest commitment that we wish to make to the British people...I really would suggest that the public can be trusted to determine what is in their own interest."

As we've noted 
before, there is a certain irony in the fact that it is an unelected body, the House of Lords, which is displaying such great suspicion and hostility to giving people a greater say over their country’s relationship with the EU - and peers have given us some unintentionally hilarious quotes during the often bizarre debates on the Bill (we'll give you a few samples shortly). But the fact that it is being allowed to do so completely under the political radar is probably even more worrying.

Lord Tebbitt
"Do not give up. Conservatives can take over Conservative Associations and simply decline to support Central Office clone dummies as Parliamentary candidates. It can be your party".
Read the following brilliant response by "Archbishop Cranmer":

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lord Tebbit urges Conservatives to mutiny against CCHQ

There are few blogs which can be as much of a thorn in David Cameron’s side as that of Lord Tebbit. Since he joined the Telegraph Blogs, he has provided the brand with a journalistic credibility and political gravitas which had been somewhat lacking. Norman Tebbit is a titan among political pygmies; a thoroughbred Hyperion amongst a horde of chimeric satyrs and harpies.

And he usually knows what he’s talking about.

But the above quotation comes at the end of a  post which is essentially a criticism of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It is a curious addendum; almost an afterthought; tangential if not irrelevant to the subject matter of the post. It could almost be missed (indeed, it has been by all but His Grace). It is cannily sneaked in right at the end, so the Conservative-supporting, bishop-bashing blogs will freely link, tweet and re-tweet Lord Tebbit’s essential thesis that the bearded lefty Dr Rowan Williams is a whole mitre short of a bishopric. And yet when the Archbishop refers to the Conservative Party implementing policy without democratic legitimacy, Lord Tebbit exposes an inconvenient truth: the Party has long ceased being democratic, and under David Cameron it is manifesting decidedly anti-democratic tendencies.

And perhaps this is evident nowhere more than in the stranglehold exerted by Conservative Campaign Headquarters over candidate selection. The ‘Approved List’ used to consist of intelligent, discerning, loyal and true Tories with real experience in the world who wanted to bring their expertise into Parliament. So important were these qualities that if an aspiring candidate had dared to stand against the Party, they could not become ‘approved’ for at least the succeeding period of government – up to five years of ‘cooling off’, during which suitability could be assessed. When a seat became vacant, a local association would be sent the CVs of as many who had applied – sometimes hundreds – and it was for the local association to whittle them down to a long-list, then produce a short-list, and then to vote on a winner. The process was very open, democratic and fair.

Over the past decade, the emphasis has been more on gender than intelligence; more on ethnicity than loyalty; more on sexuality than a grasp of philosophy; and more on an appreciation of diversity than political discernment. And to ensure the ‘right sort’ of candidate succeeded, CCHQ embarked on a process of  limiting candidate selection in its ‘plum seats’ to just six good men and true, three of which must be women. It was not unheard of for the three men to be black, Asian or gay. There was even candidate selection byreligion.

As His Grace  wrote at the time, candidates are:
...hand-picked for each Conservative Association by two of the most powerful people in CCHQ – John Maples MP and BaronessShireen Ritchie, who hold the future of the party and the make-up of the next government in their hands: it is theirs to mould, in accordance with their own professional preferences and political proclivities. Out will go the ‘Right-wing troublemakers’, and in will come ‘a new breed of youthful and inexperienced “Chloë-bots”,’ as the telegenic, smooth-talking, compliant candidates are known, named after the 27-year-old Chloë Smith, who was recently elected MP for Norwich North. David Cameron said she is ‘exactly the sort of MP I want to see in the House of Commons for the Conservative Party’.
It should not be for the Leader to declare, but for the people to decide 'the sort of MP' they wish to elect.

It is telling that in 2009 His Grace pointedly crossed out ‘Baroness’, yet just a year later she had indeed become  Baroness Ritchie of Brompton, just as Patricia Morris before her went on to become Baroness Morris of Bolton. Both of their Wikipedia entries refer to their ‘efforts of diversity’, including ‘women2win’ and the formation of ‘Priority List’ (A-List) candidates.

This is a curious centralisation, which effectively exempts the internal workings of the Conservative Party from David Cameron’s commitment to localism, devolution, subsidiarity and democracy. While the Party Leader is preaching the gospel of demos, the party practises kratos. Before the election, he promised to  shift power

From the state to citizens; from the government to parliament; from Whitehall to communities. From Brussels to Britain; from judges to the people; from bureaucracy to democracy. Through decentralisation, transparency and accountability we must take power away from the political elite and hand it to the man and woman in the street.
Yet while he preaches parliament, communities, Britain, people and democracy, we still get government, Whitehall, Brussels, judges and bureaucracy. Okay, the Conservative Party didn’t win the election. But there is absolutely nothing preventing the Prime Minister from practising what he preaches within the party he leads. Why talk of shifting power from the state to the citizens and from Whitehall to town halls while centralising your own bureaucracy?

If the intelligent, discerning, loyal and responsible local Conservative associations are not ready for democracy, what makes Mr Cameron believe the town halls are? How can one persuade the electorate that one stands for something out of conviction if one’s instinct is to practise the contrary. Is a man not best judged by what he does in his own home?

It is puzzling in the extreme that the Conservative Party has learnt nothing from the electorate’s reaction to the controlling and centralising tendencies of Labour. When the people of Wales wanted Rhodri Morgan, Labour imposed Alun Michael; when the people of London wanted Ken Livingstone, Labour imposed Frank Dobson; when the people of Blaenau Gwent wanted to select their own candidate, Labour imposed an all-women shortlist. And when Harriet Harman wanted her husband elected to Parliament, the all-women shortlists were conveniently set aside and, lo and behold, Jack Dromey was elected. It is the Socialist way.

Conservative philosophy is quite different. We believe that the State should enable, not control. And in order to fulfil the Conservative aspiration to shrink the State, policies must be introduced to encourage individual responsibility and strengthen the ‘little platoons’. If David Cameron cannot achieve this even amongst his own faithful, it is highly questionable that he is committed at all to ‘decentralisation, transparency and accountability’.

It is worth considering that had the Conservative Party exercised central control over its MPs throughout its history, it would doubtless have removed Churchill, Eden and Macmillan from its approved list. And it is highly likely that they would have become more than a little exasperated by a shrill candidate called Margaret Thatcher who complained numerous times to Central Office of her inability to get selected.

His Grace mused two years ago:
It is not entirely beyond the realms of possibility that proud and independently-minded Conservative associations, increasingly exasperated by an autocratic centralised power antithetical to all that is being preached about localism, might eventually stick two fingers up to this ultra-Approved List, which is essentially the resurrected ‘A-List’, and begin to field their own ‘democratic’ or ‘independent’ Conservative candidates.

But he never expected such a distinguished Conservative as Lord Tebbit to foment the rebellion.

This tantalising intervention comes at a time of acute embarrassment for the Candidates’ Department, having just  dismissed (‘right-wing’, ‘eurosceptic’) Annunziata Rees-Mogg (along with reportedly 200 other formerly-approved candidates).

Louise Mensch (née Bagshaw) MP called the decision 'hugely unfair'. She accused CCHQ of ‘pushing forward young female candidates such as Ms Rees-Mogg as part of a PR drive to present a fresh image for the party, only to then drop them abruptly after Election day’.

Jacob Rees Mogg MP has  gone further. He called the decision ‘contemptible’, adding: ‘The attitude of Central Office is shameful... I think my sister has been treated disgracefully by an unjust procedure that brings the party into disrepute. Traditionally the Candidates’ department was well run by an experienced MP and senior members of the voluntary party. It is now run by arrogant, discourteous apparatchiks.’

Mr Rees-Mogg also condemned the ‘poor manners’ of  Baroness (it will happen) Carlyn Chisholm, Chairman of Candidates’ Committee, for not turning up at the debrief, ‘sending her sidekicks instead’. He fumed: ‘This behaviour is simply not good enough.'

Indeed it is not. But Party Co-Chairman Andrew Feldman has responded defiantly, insisting that the Candidates’ Department is ‘determined not to be influenced by the friends of candidates' and that he intends to 'take the small "p" politics out of candidate selection'.

His Grace doesn’t have a clue what Mr Feldman means by taking the small ‘p’ politics out of candidate selection (it is oxymoronic and humanly impossible). But when you consider the number of Shadow Cabinet senior aides and chiefs of staff who went on to be selected for ‘plum seats’, the assertion that the influence of ‘friends’ has been eradicated is laughable.

But back to Lord Tebbit’s solution. It is unfortunate that he does not explain what he means by ‘take over’. If he means ‘assume control’ (OED), he is fomenting a fruitless discord and appears to be alarmingly ignorant of the Conservative Party Constitution which has changed somewhat since he was chairman.

Under the Hague reforms in the wake of the Neil Hamilton affair, the Conservative Party became an unincorporated association. Prior to that it had no official legal status: it was essentially the private office of the Leader, and local associations were autonomous. As far as candidate selection was concerned, they could simply ignore Conservative Central Office (as it was then) by having the candidate run as an independent Conservative. Although there was an ‘Approved List’, CCO had no way of enforcing their preference for an ‘approved’ candidate. In 1997, CCO threatened to remove Neil Hamilton from the list but were told by his Association that he would run anyway without their support. CCO was impotent to do anything about it.

After that general election, the Constitution was codified and previously autonomous associations dutifully signed up to it (some with a little ‘persuasion’). As a result, associations surrendered their sovereignty and became subject to an omnipotent and unaccountable bureaucracy. CCHQ (as it became) acquired the power to appropriate constituency property and cash. If a local constituency association ever again refused to comply with a central directive, they could be put it into ‘support status’ (ie sacked en masse and administered centrally). CCHQ has not only threatened a number of ‘troublesome’ associations with this humiliating treatment, they have done it.

Lord Tebbit appears not to know that an oligarchical CCHQ is now omnipotent over both candidate selection and the internal workings of all local associations: they can appoint and dismiss as they see fit, in accordance with the will of the Party Board. And that Board is empowered by an ‘enabling clause’ which permits it to do whatever is necessary ‘in the interests of the Party’.

If, therefore, local members were to attempt a democratic ‘take over’ of their CCHQ-compliant association, or if they were to ‘decline to support’ the CCHQ-approved candidate, as Lord Tebbit advocates, they could be individually disciplined and expelled from the Party, or the whole association put into ‘support status’. A local association cannot be ‘taken over’ by democratically-minded Conservatives: if an attempt were to be made, it would be ‘taken over’ by the Board. And this could be threatened (and implemented) over a fairly minor dispute or for (undefined) ‘poor performance’. The assessment of the seriousness of a misdeamanour is wholely subjective and carried out by CCHQ (ie the Board). There are no checks and balances; just a series of rigged appeals.

So, Lord Tebbit, would you care to elucidate, as a few of your your own commenters have requested? Are you suggesting that the loyal Conservatives of Somerton and Frome re-adopt Annunziata Rees-Mogg in defiance of CCHQ? Are you proposing that they volunteer for certain ‘support status’? Are you suggesting that they reject the next ‘clone dummy’ candidate CCHQ decides to impose? Having been party chairman, how do you think Baroness Warsi might react to your suggestion? Could you please elucidate either in the thread below or upon your own august blog? Or (if you prefer), you may email His Grace in confidence directly (address top right of his blog). Bless you.

And Lord Tebbitt replys:

Is Lord Tebbit about to be suspended or expelled from the Conservative Party?

His Grace put a question to the Lord Tebbit a few days ago, regarding his apparent exhortation to Conservative Party members to mutiny against Conservative Campaign HQ.

His Grace  asked:
Are you suggesting that the loyal Conservatives of Somerton and Frome re-adopt Annunziata Rees-Mogg in defiance of CCHQ, who have just removed her from the 'Approved List'? Are you proposing that they volunteer for certain ‘support status’? Are you suggesting that they reject the next ‘clone dummy’ candidate CCHQ decides to impose? Having been party chairman, how do you think Baroness Warsi might react to your suggestion?
The Noble Lord has responded upon his blog:
Sally Roberts questioned what I would have said to ‘entryism’ when I was Party Chairman. Well, I always did and still do encourage Conservatives to join the Conservative Party and to fight for conservative policies and to select and elect Conservative Members of the Commons. Of course, in my day local Conservative Associations were autonomous bodies over which I did not have control, whereas today they are more like branches of the central Party, a point well made by Cranmer.

My message is that local Conservatives should control constituency associations and insist on selecting Conservative candidates who they like, not Central Office nominees. It could be called the Big Society politics. As Wuffothe Wonderdog says, Central Office might not like it, but faced with Conservatives willing to run independent Conservative candidates against imposed ones, they would probably think again.

This is both refreshingly forthright and very interesting indeed, not least because Lord Tebbit - who takes the Party Whip on the House of Lords and is a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party - is suggesting that local Conservative associations should threaten to run independent Conservative candidates against those imposed centrally. Of course, CCHQ will insist that they never impose anyone, but the facts of history rather negate such an assertion. Lord Tebbit urges this rebellion knowing full well that in the past it has led to associations being threatened with 'support status' (ie, 'taken over' by CCHQ) and, in one case, a whole association being dismissed for expressing support for an 'un-approved' candidate.

Lord Tebbit has clarified that 'local Conservatives should control constituency associations and insist on selecting Conservative candidates who they like, not Central Office nominees'. This can only be achieved by rejecting 'Central Office clone dummies', as he calls them. There are those who will view this as a direct challenge to the authority of the Conservative Party Board, which is omnipotent on all matters relating to the conduct of members.

Shedule 7, article 3.5 of the Conservative Party’s constitution states:
‘The Officers of the Association may move before the Executive Council the suspension or termination of membership of the Association of any member whose declared opinions or conduct shall, in their judgement, be inconsistent with the objects or financial well-being of the Association or be likely to bring the Party into disrepute. Similarly, the Officers may move the refusal of membership of the Association for the same reasons. Following such a motion, the Executive Council may by a majority vote suspend, terminate or refuse membership for the same reason.’

By exhorting Conservative Party members to reject CCHQ-approved candidates in favour of independents, Lord Tebbit is indeed declaring opinions and conducting himself in a manner that is inconsistent with the objects (and financial well-being) of his local association and the Conservative Party nationally.

Is CCHQ about to suspend or terminate Lord Tebbit's membership of the Conservative Party?

We will soon have in place a system of checking immigrants who come into and leave the country outside of the European Union.    When will this happen to immigrants from the European Union?   We know that many Tunisians got into Italy and then had permission to go to France.    What happens if they turn up at Calais?   This is a potentially serious problem.   All the "Aire" car parks between Calais and the Belgium border have been closed because this was where the immigrants got onto lorries for the UK.   On a recent visit I made to France there was no check going out or coming back!

by Douglas Carswell MP and Dan Hannan MEP
Councils are being told by Whitehall how often they must empty bins. Universities are told whom to admit. Local authorities are told how much council tax they can raise. National plans to protect designated wildlife sites are being formulated. Decisions over sea defences continue to be made with almost no regard to the communities who live along the coast. Food hygiene quangos centrally determine the price they might extract from farmers for laboriously inspecting them. There is to be a massive house-building programme on public sector land.
The much heralded White Paper on public service reform, which we were promised would “signal the decisive end of the old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you’re-given model of public services” seems to have been abandoned. Far from revolutionising choice over who provides state-funded services, we learn that the process of public procurement within the public sector is actually being centralised around the Cabinet Office.

European Scrutiny Committee
Just before the General Election David Cameron, in answer to a question put to him by a COPOV member, said that the European Scrutiny Committee would meet in public.   True to his word it did meet in public on three occasions but we understand that there was a private meeting beforehand at which civil servants were present.   The Committee has now decided to meet in future in private so they can talk to the civil servants.   You could use this argument for all the parliamentary committees.   It is scandalous that this committee has taken this stand.   What about transparency.   Isn't the public entitled to know what this committee is talking about?   Their decision should be reversed.

James Elles blog

According to the European Commission's recent Digital Agenda Scoreboard, the UK scores higher than the EU average for most broadband indicators. This compares with France, which is one of the few countries with 100% fixed broadband penetration. While European comparisons are currently not so bad, looking at global comparisons we are clearly lagging behind. Whereas only 1% of UK households currently have access to fast broadband (over 25 Mbps), Singapore has had 99% penetration and speeds of 100mbps(megabits per second) since 2009.
Better to spend our money on uprating our broadband than on the useless HS2 project.

Parliamentary Candidates List
A new list of Conservative Parliamentary Candidates has been drawn up.   I would be interested in any views members may have on this.    In view of the changes from the Boundaries Commission review the selection of candidates is going to become a hot potato.   Isn't it time that we re-instated the sovereignty of constituencies in the selection of parliamentary candidates?

Lord Turnbull publishes devastating critique of the Coalition's climate change policies

By Tim Montgomerie 
Follow Tim on Twitter.
Scepticism about climate change takes at least four forms:
  1. Some sceptics don't believe that the climate is changing.
  2. Others believe that climate is changing but it isn't 'man-made'.
  3. Some believe that climate change is happening but they don't believe government action can make a difference.
  4. Some believe that government might be able to make a difference but it's too expensive or risky to try.
The various forms of "denial" are lumped together by those environmental fundamentalists who would discredit any voices of caution about expensive action to combat climate change. Another tactic of the climate change industry is to portray sceptics as fringe characters. That tactic is getting harder especially when figures as serious as Lord Turnbull are joining the sceptics. Lord (Andrew) Turnbull was, until recently, the most senior British civil servant and he's just written a paper for the Global Warming Policy Forum setting out his worries.Download a PDF of his full paper. He expresses many concerns about climate change science but some of his biggest policy concerns are highlighted in extracts below:
Britain should NOT act unilaterally: "Our Climate Change Act imposes legal duties, regardless of what ever else other countries do, or do not do. The UK, producing only 2-3 percent of world CO2 emissions, can have only a minimal effect on the global warming outcome. If we push too hard on decarbonisation by raising the price of carbon through a range of instruments we will suffer double jeopardy. Energy-using industries will migrate and, if the climate pessimists are right, we will still have to pay to adapt, e.g. by raising our flood defences."
Are we right to try and stop global warming or should scarce resources be invested in adaption? "Policy has been based on a preponderantly warmist view of the world. Many such as the Institution of Civil Engineers think that too little attention has been paid to adaptation, i.e. being more resilient whichever way the sum of natural forces and CO2 takes us, up or down."
Expensive wind power enjoys favoured status in EU energy policy: "The logical economist’s approach is to rank policy responses according to the cost per tonne of CO2 abated and then work through the merit order, starting with the most effective. Or, what amounts to the same thing, set a price on carbon and then let the various technologies – gas, coal with CCS, nuclear, wind, tidal, energy efficiency etc, fight it out for market share. But the EU Renewables Obligation is the denial of this logic. One particular set of technologies, and especially wind, has been given a guaranteed market share and a guaranteed indexed price, regardless of how competitive it is. The current pursuit of wind power is folly. Its cost per kWh substantially exceeds that of other low carbon sources such as nuclear when account is taken of intermittency and the cost of extending the grid far from where consumers are located."
The Liberal Democrats' objections to nuclear power are inconsistent: "The Secretary of State at Department of Energy and Climate Change has called nuclear a tried, tested and failed technology. It may be that in the UK historically it has not been as successful as it might have been but it has for 50 years provided around 20 percent of our electricity reliably, competitively and safely. Just 20 miles from our coast France has produced over 2/3rds of its electricity from nuclear and regards this as a great success... There is something profoundly illogical in Nick Clegg’s demand that nuclear power can only go ahead in the UK if it receives no public subsidy whatsoever, while at the same time promoting huge subsidies for renewables."
Current subsidies for solar power generation involve a transfer of power from the poor to the rich: "The feed-in tariff mechanism is fast becoming a scandal. Those lucky enough to own buildings large enough on which to install solar panels, or enough land for a wind farm, have been receiving 30-40p per kwh, for electricity, which is retailed at only 11p. The loss is paid for by a levy on businesses and households. It is astonishing that the Liberals who attach such importance to fairness turn a blind eye to this transfer from poor to rich, running to £billions a year. If you live in a council tower block in Lambeth you don’t have much opportunity to get your nose into this trough. The good news is that, at last, the government is beginning to cut back on subsidies to large solar operators, following the trend set in Germany and Spain."
The shale revolution: "There is a major new development which fits the description of a disruptive technology, that is the introduction of new drilling techniques which make it possible to extract gas from shale[4]. This has dramatically widened the geographic availability of gas, has produced a massive upgrading of gas reserves and is decoupling gas prices from oil. There is no peak in hydrocarbons. Gas has the advantage that it produces less than half the CO2 that coal produces. So we face a happy prospect that we can replace a lot of coal burning with gas, reduce energy prices, and make a big reduction in CO2 emissions, albeit not the complete decarbonisation sought by some, achieving in effect a dash for gas at the global level."
The Green Jobs Con: "My view is simple. If a technology can justify itself without massive subsidy we should build up our research and our skills. But if a technology exists only by virtue of subsidy we only impoverish ourselves by trying to build jobs on such shaky foundations."

An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The political hack who just walked away.

Posted by Jason O on May 24, 2011 in Irish PoliticsNot quite serious. |
Sometimes it’s a single issue, or at least, that’s what she tells herself. More often than not it’s a gradual build-up of disappointment and tiredness that triggers it. She decides not to go to the next cumann meeting, and stays in and gets a pizza and watches Midsomer Murders instead. And guess what: She doesn’t miss the cumann meeting. She doesn’t go to the next one either, or the one after. When she gets a phonecall to help with a leaflet drop she’s busy.

Then she stops zooming in on headlines with the party’s name in it. Soon it happens: An opinion poll comes out, and she doesn’t care how the party is doing. She surprises even herself with her lack of interest.

Sitting out the election feels weird, as she’ll have received phone calls from party officers who have finally noticed that she’s not turning up, and she’ll feel embarrassed, and will almost promise to turn up at the next meeting, but resists, and says “she’ll see what she can do”. They both know that means she’s gone. The party official will wonder why the sane people always leave whilst the mouth-breathers and the one-issue obsessives “how will the banking crisis affect the ramps on the bottom of Lea Road, which is a major issue in the area?” never do.

She misses the energy of the election, but not hugely, seeing it for the first time the way non-political people see it, as important, but not the most important thing in her life. On the door, she is polite to the canvassers, having been that soldier, and resists the urge to demonstrate that she actually knows more about their policies than they do.

She still watches the election count all day on the telly, and enjoys it, but other things fill her life. Family, work, and whilst she still maintains an interest in politics it tends to be at a higher level, with more interest in other countries or history. She finds herself shutting out day-to-day politics, developing an interest in running or cycling or painting or learning the piano. And here’s the scary thing: She doesn’t regret her time spent in politics, because she met some great people. But as she finishes her first painting, or finishes her first novel, or passes her first piano exam, she can’t help thinking that she could’ve put her time to much more rewarding use.

Why the referendum on the Alternative Vote was lost.

A Personal View

John E. Strafford – Chairman, Conservative Yes Campaign.
On 5th January 2011 I met with John Starkey – Campaign Director of Yes to Fairer Votes and I agreed to be Chairman of the Conservative Yes Campaign. The three main points which arose from this meeting were that:
  1. The Yes campaign was to be a people’s campaign driven by the people and not by politicians.
  2. Detailed research by ICM had shown that in an opinion poll the Alternative Vote had a 60% to 40% lead over First Past The Post. The majority in favour was highest amongst young people, diminishing with age until at the age of 65 the majority switched to First Past The Post. 40% of Conservative voters were in favour of the Alternative Vote.
  3. The campaign was to be an all party campaign.
The key elements which flowed from this information were that:
  1. Conservative votes were a critical element in the campaign particularly as the Labour Party was split.
  2. Conservative Party members were barren ground as the average age of a party member was 68.
  3. Voters over 65 were more likely to vote so it was essential to get out the young people to vote. Social media would be critical in this.
No budget was agreed for the Conservative Yes Campaign, but it was anticipated that funds would be available from Conservative Action for Electoral Reform and donations. A person was appointed as the link between the Conservative Yes Campaign and Yes To Fairer Votes. We lost this link half way during the campaign.
It became apparent early in the campaign that the Liberal Democrats were taking the lead, particularly due to their connections with the Joseph Rowntree Trust, which was to be a major funder of the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign. The other major funder was the Electoral Reform Society. At this stage it seemed as though the referendum would be won and the Liberal Democrats wanted to get the political advantage which would arise from winning.
The objects of the Conservative Yes Campaign were:
  1. To provide a focal point for the Conservatives who supported Yes.
  2. To identify supporters, and channel their names to Yes To Fairer Votes.
  3. To be spokesmen for the Conservatives.
  4. To speak at local and national events.
  5. To disseminate information and rebut the Conservative No campaign.
In pursuing these objectives we set up a web site and Twitter account and printed Conservative Yes literature for use at meetings and on street stalls.
On 18th February David Cameron made a speech opposing the Alternative Vote. Conservative Yes wanted to issue a rebuttal, but the Yes To Fairer Votes Communications Director objected and said that if we went ahead with a press release we were on our own. We went ahead with a watered down release but media enquiries were not passed on to us by Yes To Fairer Votes. It became clear to me at this point thatYes To Fairer Votes did not really want Conservative involvement. Whether this was because of an unwritten agreement between Nick Clegg and David Cameron that the campaign should be low key I do not know, but it was fatal for the Conservative Yes campaign. Cameron, under pressure from his backbenchers was able to consolidate Conservative support for the NO campaign. Conservative MPs, MEPs and members of the House of Lords backed off from the Yes Campaign when they saw that there was no Conservative voice being heard.
On 19th February the Guardian published a two page article on the referendum which was an interview between me and Margaret Beckett.Yes To Fairer Votes were not enamoured because the interview was not arranged through them.
A setback for the Yes Campaign came with the refusal by Conservative Central Office to allow a fringe meeting at the Conservative Spring Forum and the Freedom Association who had offered to have a debate eventually gave in to pressure so no debate could be held at their fringe meeting. Nevertheless we had two speakers in favour of Yes at the Tory Reform Group meeting. We also distributed some 1,000 leaflets at the Spring Forum. The Conservative Yes Campaign realised that we were having an impact on the No campaign when I was subjected to a vicious smear campaign the same weekend as the Spring Forum.
Throughout February, March and April the Conservative Yes Campaign put up speakers for lots of meetings on the referendum. Sometimes these were debates with the No campaign but on other occasions they were on a Yes platform. We had speakers at Conservative Association meetings, university meetings, and public meetings and also at meetings organised by independent bodies. The No campaign put up some of their top speakers against us including Mathew Elliott, Stephen Parkinson and Charlotte Vere. Yes to Fairer Votes took no interest. Some of the meetings were videoed and extracts shown on You Tube, where they got just under two thousand views. What became very clear at these meetings was that the younger the audience the more favourable they were to the Yes campaign. Conservative meetings were difficult probably due to the age of the ordinary Party member, and pressure was put on Conservative Associations not to have debates with us. On one occasion a debate was cancelled just two days before it was due to take place. We won the debate organised by Oxford East Conservative Association – perhaps a good augury for the referendum as Oxford voted Yes in the referendum.
A major defect of the Yes campaign was to allow it to become party political:
    • Ed Milliband wouldn’t share a platform with Nick Clegge
    • UKIP were excluded until the final phase of the campaign.
    • The Green Party only had a minor role.
The second major defect was to allow the politicians to take a major role contrary to the original intentions that the campaign would be a people’s campaign. That original message was lost.
The third major defect was the way in which celebrities were used. Eddie Izzard goes down well with young people so he should have been used on Twitter, Facebook and You Tube. I am afraid that Conservatives see him as a transvestite comedian and were unlikely to accept advice from him. He should have been kept out of the mainstream media. Yes To Fairer Votes were mesmerised by the fact that he had 2,500,000 Twitter followers. Richard Wilson is great for Labour supporters but anathema to Conservatives. At no time was advice sought nor did any discussion of these issues take place.
The Conservative Yes Campaign was not invited to any launches, rallies or even invited to sit on the platform at any Yes to Fairer Votesmeetings. Only at the last rally did Andrew Boff, a Conservative London Assembly member, appear on the platform. Effectively the Conservatives were air brushed out of the Yes to Fairer Votes Campaign. If you want to run a successful all party campaign on electoral reform you cannot exclude the biggest party of all, particularly when the second biggest party is split down the middle.
In the next five years there is likely to be another referendum of one sort or another on electoral reform. To be successful reformers need to do the following:
    1. Someone has to be in overall charge.
    2. There must be a Management Team with clear lines of responsibility.
    3. A Council should be set up on which all the different organisations including the political parties are represented. This Council will be responsible for co-ordinating the different groups. The Management team should report to it and it should meet at least once per month during the campaign. Budgets and income and expenditure should be agreed with the Management Team.
    4. If you are to run a people’s campaign you need to demonstrate that ordinary people are supporting you. There should have been at least two mass rallies of supporters during the campaign fronted by ordinary people, not politicians.
Finally I would like to thank all those that helped the Conservative Yes Campaign. With virtually no resources and little if any support the bit we did do was well done. Peter Facey and Mathew Oliver of Unlock Democracy were particularly helpful.
Join the discussion on:
The Joseph Rowntree Trust
Good article.   COPOV gets a mention
Europe - Did You Know?
Attendance at the European Parliament by the UK's MEPs is the lowest of any country.   What are they doing?
24% of the UK's MEPs are in the biggest three groups in the European Parliament compared to 72% of all MEPs.   Does this mean we have little influence?
European Aid

In 2009, the EU distributed 35% of its ENP funding directly to governments in the form of so-called budget support. The European Commission claims that it only

gives this kind of support to governments that meet “strict” criteria on good governance and administration. However, the now toppled – and clearly corrupt –
regimes in Egypt and Tunisia received a combined total of €169 million in budget support in 2009, representing 77% and 80% of their overall funding commitments
from the EU respectively.

The Commission needs to explain how the Egyptian and Tunisian regimes were able to pass its democracy and anti-corruption tests for direct aid funding, while
people living under them took to the streets in protest over these regimes’ autocratic rule. Indeed, the recent upheavals in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria
have shown that the EU’s prioritisation of stability over democracy has been illjudged and too simplistic; arguably, the EU has ended up promoting neither.

Next Battle - House of Lords Reform
From The Independent on Sunday
This week Mr Clegg will present a draft Bill to Parliament on replacing the House of Lords. However, in the wake of his defeat in the referendum on the voting system, the Lib Dem leader is anxious to avoid seeming obsessed with constitutional matters at a time of deep spending cuts. Instead, two Tory ministers – Mark Harper and Lord Strathclyde – will take to the airwaves to sell the policy.
There is still behind-the-scenes wrangling over what the new upper house will be called, with Clegg allies favouring the retention of the House of Lords over a US-inspired "Senate".
In meetings with peers to persuade them to support their own abolition, Mr Clegg has made it clear that he is prepared to use the Parliament Act to force the Bill through the Lords. Any intervention by Mr Osborne is likely to carry significant weight and will mark a surprise about-turn after Lib Dems publicly criticised his role in the referendum campaign.
Lib Dem party managers are also preparing to turn the issue into a major test of Ed Miliband's leadership of the Labour Party. An internal briefing for staff at the Lib Dem HQ suggests that Mr Miliband is seen as weak and unable to unite his party in favour of reform. "He doesn't pass the 'blink test' – he just doesn't look, in the instant in which people make the judgement, like a potential PM."
Our Fight for Democracy
Latest review from Reformer - magazine of the Tory Reform Group
CPF report
In the submission to Mark Harper on constitutional reform COPOV got a mention:
"However, a representative summary of the AV responses can be found in the Submission from the Campaign for Conservative Democracy :-
"1. A chance for more honest, positive politics
2. MPs need your support
3. A fair system."
Next week
What happened to the Conservative Yes Campaign?

Gerry Adams
So, who should call the writ for a West Belfast election?    Gerry Adams resigned his seat in the House of Commons, although he never took the oath, in order to become a member of the Irish Parliament.   Traditionally, the Party that has lost a seat moves the writ for a by-election although this is not always the case.   Is it not time that the writ was moved for West Belfast?
European Parliament - see below
MEPs proposal to create 25 additional MEPs could cost an extra £50m per year. The European Parliament’s Constitutional Committee has proposed creating an extra pan-European constituency which would create posts for 25 additional MEPs, in order to ‘cultivate an EU identity’ and boost voter turnout at European elections. The move could cost an additional £50m per year, £6m of which would have to be covered by British taxpayers. (Telegraph, 2 May)

Why is it?

Why is it bad that 90% of mechanical engineering graduates are male but not alright if 90% of psychology graduates are female?

On 19th April the "Constitutional Affairs" Committee of the European Parliament approved an initiative report by Andrew Duff (ALDE, UK), with regard to a proposed modification of the bill passed on 20th September 1976 concerning the election of MEPs by direct universal suffrage. The report suggests the creation of 25 new MEPs elected from transnational lists in order to increase citizen interest in the European elections. Voters would have two voting slips to put in the ballot box; one to elect an MEP from a national list of his country and another to choose a candidate from a pan-European list. The parliamentary commission also suggests bringing the European election date forward from June to May. The European Parliament will be voting on this report in June.
Does this mean the end of the closed party list system?

The Referendum
I am totally sick at the way the referendum campaign is being conducted.   Lies and personal attacks have become the norm.   This is the old style politics which has brought parliament into disrepute.   In these last days of the campaign can we not hope that the arguments will be raised to a higher level?
Party Hacks?

Of 71 Conservative and Liberal Democrat Peers appointed since last May 64 of them have never voted against the government.   Isn't it time this charade of democracy was done away with.   It is time we had a democratic House of Lords.   After May 5th this is the next item on the democracy agenda.

The State of British Politics.
The Hansard Society has just published its 8th Audit of Political Engagement.   The following extract tells you a lot about the state of British politics.
"Despite very mixed views about the advantages and disadvantages of the Alternative Vote (AV) system, most who took part in our research discussion groups said that, if they vote, they will likely support a change in the system.   This was not because of particular dissatisfaction with First Past The Post.   Rather, their dissatisfaction with the current system of politics, with MPs, Parliament and government was such that almost any change was preferable to the status quo."
Party Membership
A new campaign is to be launched to get more members into the Conservative Party.   Targets are to be set for each constituency.    They are as follow:
  • For those with Conservative MPs, the target for Membership is 5% of the local Conservative vote at the 2010 General Election.
  • For those without Conservative MPs, the target is 3% of the local Conservative vote at the 2010 General Election.
Roughly half the seats in parliament will have a Conservative MP.   307 out of 650, so half will have a 5% target.   The other half will have a 3% target, say on average for the whole it will be 4%.   At the General Election 10.7 million people voted Conservative so the overall target for the party will be 428,000.   The membership at the moment is 160,000.   To expect a 167% increase is cloud cuckoo land.   When will Central Office get real?

Can a third placed candidate win under AV?

In theory yes, in practice no. No candidate has ever been elected from third place in an Australian election conducted under the AV rules proposed for the United Kingdom.
It has never happened in New South Wales, nor in Queensland since AV was re-introduced in 1992. I will stand corrected if someone can find a Queensland example under the supplementary vote rules used between 1892 and 1940, but as far as I know, my claim stands.
No candidate has ever won from third place in Australia under AV rules.
So why is my view at odds with the opinion piece written by Lord Ashcroft at Conservative Home last week? (See article here)
The answer is that Lord Ashcroft's example was not AV. His example was the full preferential system used at Australian Federal elections.
This is an important point. There is already more than enough confusion in the AV debate without educated people adding to the confusion by not understanding the differences between electoral systems.

Watch this

Letter from a COPOV member
Dear Sir/Madam
The alternative vote system has so often been misrepresented, that I feel a few words may help clarify and not come amiss.  The official instructions are good, but a real example with real numbers may help to see it clearly.  For simplicity’s sake, I'm using an example I gave my 13 year old grandson.

“My dear grandson,
You asked me to explain the alternative vote system and compare it to what we have at the moment.  Fairland had exactly 100 voters on its role.  It also had exactly five parties, let’s call them A, B, C, D and E.  The country was faced with three  issues.  Party A wanted to keep the coal mines and use coal as the only source of energy.  Party B wanted to keep and protect the coal industry, the nuclear industry and spend as much as they could afford on renewable energy.  Party C only wanted to protect the coal industry and expand renewable energy.  Party D only wants renewable energy and the nuclear industry.  Party E only wanted to protect the nuclear and coal.
The election result was predictable.  All 13 coal Miners voted for A, 15 voted for B, 20 voted for C, 25 for D and 27 for E.  A was therefore eliminated, and the second preference on these ballot papers all supported B.  Now candidate C had the lowest vote and was therefore eliminated and its second preference on these ballot papers all supported B. This meant B had 48 votes, D 25 and E 27 votes.  Now candidate D had the lowest vote and was therefore eliminated and of the second preference on these ballot papers only 5 supported B; the rest (20) supported E.
This led to B being elected with 53 people supporting him and only 47 supporting the runner up.  Everybody is happy as all their votes counted.  There is no horse trading or casting vote or tossing of coins.  B had worked hard listened to the people, reacted to the legitimate concerns of most people and progress beckoned.
In neighbouring Statusquoland, there are also five parties covering the same three issues and in the election, attaining the same results.  However there only the one, with most votes, counts and so E with his 27 votes is elected.
I am so pleased to hear that you take such an interest in the subject, if you keep that up you will one day be leading your own party.  So work hard and play hard, listen carefully to what people tell you and I hope one day to be voting for you.  There will be many issues, and rarely will anyone agree with everything any one party proposes.
Your ever loving

I leave the reader to make up his/her own mind as to which system is the fairer.  There is no evidence to show that any one who chose B was swayed by fringe parties.  It is not obscure or unpopular, and in all the debates "AV yes" usually won.  If cost were a factor, elections would be the first to be cut.  We have all had a taste of proportional Voting in the EU elections and now our EuroMPs are virtually unknown. 
The “No” campaign is taking the public for fools.  Their arguments appear either false or puerile.  Using scare tactics is not a sensible way of holding a debate.  If AV is good enough for electing the Prime minister, then it is surely good enough for us to elect our representatives.
Yours sincerely 
David Moffat. 

Party Membership
Party co-chairman Lord Feldman (pictured above) has this week written to all Conservative MPs and Conservative associations, setting them ambitious membership targets:
"David Cameron has made developing our Membership base a priority for the Party, and in order to deliver on this priority, we are setting targets for every Association in the country.
  • For those with Conservative MPs, the target for Membership is 5% of the local Conservative vote at the 2010 General Election.
  • For those without Conservative MPs, the target is 3% of the local Conservative vote at the 2010 General Election."
Feldman says that increasing the membership now will be "the bedrock of our campaigning success in future elections" and that all associations will shortly have access to a new "membership toolkit" both online and in booklet form to assist them in this drive over the coming months.
He also highlights that the party is improving communication with members through a new Members First newsletter to be sent via email every two months and is giving them "a stronger voice" on policy development through the re-launched Conservative Policy Forum
Will they ever learn?   It is no good setting targets, without tackling the fundamental problem.   Why should anyone become a Party member?   They have no say in anything other than the election of the Leader.   Even then their choice is restricted to two candidates.

Fiji, Australia, Papua New Guinea and us
Watch this!
Getting involved
Last week the Hansard Society held a meeting for young people on how to get involved in politics.   The unanswered question was "Why get involved if you cannot change anything?"    Our two main political parties are undemocratic oligarchies.   A member has no say either in determining who shall run the Party or in the policies of the Party.
Take part in a demonstration and you will be ignored.    Governments regard demonstrations as a nuisance rather than an expression of opinion.   No hope there then.
Vote in a General Election.   OK if you live in the 10% of constituencies which are marginal and you are one of the 10% floating voters within that constituency, i.e. if you are one of the lucky 1% that's OK.
So what is the point of getting involved?   There is only one good reason - to campaign for a fair democracy.   Until we get that you are wasting your time.

Financial Interests
This week Lord Pearson asked that those members of the House of Lords that receive a pension from the European Union should declare their interest.    Apparently the European Union can cancel the pension if the recipient brings the European Union into disrepute!   Lord Pearson's request was turned down.    Why?