Cameron’s conspiracy

CameronD3There is speculation that Cameron is planning to restructure the Conservative Party by abolishing the Constituency associations and replacing them with groupings of constituencies run by Party professionals. The Party has always described itself as  having three parts: MPs & peers; professionals and volunteers. This has always angered me by ignoring councillors who are probably the second largest grouping and the key shock troops who take to the streets every year to campaign at election time. In many areas, I suspect councillors are almost the only troops MPs can call on at General Elections.

However, to consider abolishing the voluntary side, including councillors and creating county-sized groupings of constituencies run by paid party hacks out of Central Office is a highly dangerous strategy.  Constituency associations perform two essential functions. They raise money and they organise and staff election campaigns – not just for parliamentary elections but  also for councils every year, for the awful Euro elections and for referendums.  Put them under Central Office control and you run the risk that local activists pick up their cheque books and clip boards and walk away.  Constituency associations weld together ladies who lunch to run social fund raisers with political activists who walk the streets, knock on doors and help to win elections. You risk losing them at your peril, DC, although, of course, you will not be worrying about another General Election and, in any case, Witney is hardly a typical constituency. You would be wise to look closely at those marginal seats you need to hold/win next time.  If you think you can parachute in paid hacks to make up for missing volunteers and pay their salaries and hotel bills, you may be in for a rude shock.  You need volunteers and the councillors you despise to fight your campaigns.

if you thought about it and listened to more of your marginal seats, DC, you would realise you need to grow the volunteers and to return powers to local councils sufficiently to  attract a better calibre of councillor and to create the sort of political career progression from local through regional to national that much of Europe enjoys.

I have no confidence you or yours will listen but I would be failing if I did not say it.


About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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