The Conservative Party faces an unprecedented existential threat. This arises because there is a wide gap between the hierarchy of the Party, backed by parts of the Parliamentary Party, and the voluntary Party members. The hierarchy of the Party includes the Leader, Party Chairman, Deputy Chairmen, Vice Chairmen, and Treasurer, none of whom have been elected by the members. The backbenchers are reliant on the hierarchy for their promotion within the Party and in Government, and so are mainly deferential to that hierarchy.
The gap between the hierarchy and the members has been growing for the last 20 years since the introduction of the Party’s constitution, and has been brought to a head by Brexit. Roughly 60 per cent of the hierarchy and Parliamentary Party supported remaining in the E.U, whilst 70 per cent of the members of the Party want to leave the E.U. If we do not leave the E.U. on terms that are acceptable to the members of the Party, large numbers will leave it – hence the existential threat. How have we arrived at this appalling situation? We must go back to 1998 to see how this gap was created.
Once the 1998 constitution was brought in, CCHQ began to demolish all lines of communication between the members and the hierarchy. All the checks and balances which existed prior to 1998 were abolished. Pre-1998, the annual Party Conference was organised and run by the National Union (i.e: the voluntary Party). It invited the Leader and other Ministers to speak at the conference. There were motions for debate tabled at the conference and published in a handbook. Votes were taken on the motions. After CCHQ took over, 1999 was the last Conference at which we had motions for debate.
So what else happened after 1998?
The Central Council of voluntary members met twice a year and the Party Chairman and other Ministers used to attend. It consisted of several thousand members, including representatives of the Women’s Organisation, Young Conservatives and others and at which motions for debate on Party organisation were tabled. It was abolished.
The National Union Executive Committee which was regularly addressed by the Party Leader and had elected representatives by the membership was abolished.
Regional meetings for Party members which used to be held four times a year and which had officers elected by the members, motions for debate etc, were all abolished with a couple of exceptions.
Regional meetings of the Conservative Political Centre (CPC) which had officers elected by the members and which discussed policy issues were abolished, also with a couple of exceptions.
Source: John Strafford: The Conservative Party no longer belongs to its members. No wonder it faces an existential crisis. | Conservative Home