Lo­cal mem­bers fight ‘power grab’ by

Grass­roots Con­ser­va­tives de­mand May scraps plans to re­move right to se­lect par­lia­men­tary can­di­dates

The Sunday Telegraph - - Politics - By Ed­ward Mal­nick WHITE­HALL ED­I­TOR

THERESA MAY is fac­ing a grass­roots re­volt over a planned over­haul of the Con­ser­va­tive Party’s rules, which se­nior ac­tivists claim will “seize power” from Tory as­so­ci­a­tions and lead to in­creased “dic­ta­tion from the cen­tre”.

Un­der pro­posed changes to the party’s con­sti­tu­tion, lo­cal mem­bers will lose an en­shrined right to se­lect their own prospec­tive MPs, with power vested in a cen­tral com­mit­tee in­stead.

In a let­ter to the Prime Min­is­ter this week­end, se­nior ac­tivists warn that the “cav­a­lier” re­forms amount to a power grab by the party’s Lon­don head­quar­ters and will lead to the Tories los­ing grass­roots mem­bers.

David Camp­bell Ban­ner­man, a Tory MEP and pa­tron of the Cam­paign for Con­ser­va­tive Democ­racy, said the changes to can­di­date se­lec­tion would al­low as­so­ci­a­tions to be “steam­rollered” in the man­ner of “pan­icky” se­lec­tions made ahead of last year’s elec­tion.

The let­ter’s sig­na­to­ries, who in­clude John Straf­ford, the chair­man of the Cam­paign for Con­ser­va­tive Democ­racy, Don Porter, a for­mer chair­man of the party’s na­tional con­ven­tion, and Ed Costel­loe, chair­man of the Grass­roots Con­ser­va­tives group, also high­light the pro­posed dele­tion of any men­tion of “con­stituency” in ref­er­ences to “con­stituency as­so­ci­a­tions”, in a draft re­vised con­sti­tu­tion cir­cu­lated in De­cem­ber. The move, de­signed to rec- og­nise the merg­ing of as­so­ci­a­tions into multi-con­stituency group­ings, would “break the vi­tal link between con­stituen­cies and their MPs” and, along with the pro­posed changes to can­di­date se­lec­tion rules, risk “de­stroy­ing” the party, the let­ter warns.

The pro­pos­als are due to be dis­cussed at the party’s na­tional con­ven­tion – ef­fec­tively the par­lia­ment for vol­un­teers – in May.

Party of­fi­cials said the draft re­flected feed­back from grass­roots fig­ures and amounted to “small changes” de­signed to “bring us into the 21st cen­tury”, up- dat­ing a con­sti­tu­tion dat­ing back two decades and “strength­en­ing” the role of vol­un­teers. A new draft is due to be pub­lished by the spring.

How­ever, some se­nior ac­tivists said they feared that vest­ing power for can­di­date se­lec­tion with the Can­di­dates Com­mit­tee could lead to of­fi­cials pri­mar­ily choos­ing “yes men and women” rep­re­sent­ing the “mir­ror im­ages” of the party’s cur­rent lead­er­ship.

In the let­ter to Mrs May, Mr Camp­bell Ban­ner­man, Mr Porter and Mr Straf­ford, along with 18 cur­rent and for­mer as­so­ci­a­tion of­fi­cers, state: “We be­lieve the re­forms will be the nail in the cof­fin to mem­ber­ship of our party, and are badly con­ceived.

“We urge you to step in to stop these cav­a­lier re­forms, which will only serve to strengthen the po­si­tion of un­elected of­fi­cials at CCHQ at the ex­pense of hardworking and ded­i­cated lo­cal as­so­ci­a­tions and their mem­bers. The Party needs more democ­racy and lo­cal con­trol, not in­creas­ing cen­tral­i­sa­tion and dic­ta­tion from the cen­tre.”

Rob Sem­ple, the chair­man of the Con­ser­va­tive Na­tional Con­ven­tion, and deputy chair­man of the party’s

board, said: “These claims are in­ac­cu­rate and mis­rep­re­sent the cur­rent process of re­view­ing the party’s con­sti­tu­tion.”

A new draft will be sub­ject to “ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tion” af­ter be­ing pub­lished in the spring, he added.

“But I can re­as­sure mem­bers that there are no plans un­der dis­cus­sion to abol­ish con­stituency as­so­ci­a­tions or their role in se­lect­ing can­di­dates.

“A draft will be pub­lished shortly and will be sub­ject to ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tion and a vote of the Na­tional Con­ser­va­tive Con­ven­tion mem­bers.”

‘We be­lieve the re­forms will be the nail in the cof­fin to mem­ber­ship of our party, and are badly con­ceived’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.