Billionaire Conservative donor backs plan for members to ‘take back control’ of Party

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Lord Cruddas to become President and Treasurer of major new campaign.

A Conservative Party donor has thrown his weight behind our major new campaign to empower Party members and steer the Party’s political direction back to the centre-right.

Lord Cruddas, a former Conservative Party Treasurer who has donated more than £3.5 million to the Tories, has announced his support for the Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO), a new campaigning body, which is working to empower the grassroots and restore democracy in the Party.

The move comes after Conservative MPs ousted grassroots favourite Boris Johnson as prime minister. They then overthrew his successor Liz Truss, voted in by members, and installed her defeated rival Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister – this time without bothering with a ballot of party members.

Lord Peter Cruddas.

CDO is the brainchild of former MEP and leading Brexiteer David Campbell Bannerman and the campaign is being orchestrated by the Conservative Post.

It already has the support of prominent grassroots figures and senior politicians, including former ministers who are angry at the left of centre position Rishi Sunak’s tax-raising Government has adopted.

They also have serious concerns about the political views of many Tory MPs elected under David Cameron’s leadership, which gave party headquarters powers, such as the so-called A-list, to over-rule local associations in candidate selections.

A CDO strategy document says that the ‘coronation’ of Rishi Sunak just a month after he was rejected by party members “has finally ended members faith in any party democracy”.

Lord Cruddas, President and Treasurer of CDO, said: “Internal democracy in the Conservative Party is dying on its feet. The leadership pays scant attention to the views of the membership – regarding them as little more than mindless drones who only matter at election time.

“The result is a widening gulf between the parliamentary party and the grassroots. But as the Conservative Government pushes taxes to a 70 year high and rising, there is also an electorally fatal gulf opening up between the leadership and voters. No wonder our poll ratings are dire.

“It is time to restore the democratic rights of Tory members, not least the right to choose parliamentary candidates without being hectored and bullied by party headquarters.”

Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, the former Home Secretary said:

“Our grassroots are the heart and soul of our Party. They work tirelessly to campaign for Conservative votes, knocking on doors, delivering leaflets and fundraising locally. They are our greatest assets and advocates and they should never be taken for granted. Party members are committed to our values of freedom, enterprise and opportunity and we need to empower them to have more say over our policies and candidates. That will make us stronger, more successful in Government, and boost our membership numbers.”

The strategy document goes on to say:

“With the loss of a real say over MP selections, and now the Party Leader, Party Conferences losing the ability to meet Ministers and influence policy through debates and resolutions the ‘product offering’ of party membership is fast dying out.

“Membership has fallen from 500,000 when the new 1998 Constitution was introduced to 172,000 members who voted in the 2022 Leadership election. That figure itself had been boosted when Boris Johnson became Leader, and is now falling fast.

It warns that members are “feeling ignored, steamrollered and held in utter contempt by party leaders – feeling that their views count for nothing; and yet MPs expect them to do most of the work at elections”; that at least one fifth of members have now left the Party; and party donations have dropped 40 per cent.  

The document goes on to argue that a new party isn’t the answer and instead, members should create “a truly democratic Conservative Party”.

It says:

“This is best done by a return to the successful pre-1998 model of a National Union of independent democratic Conservative Associations, to whom a smaller CCHQ reports, and the end of the centralising 1998 Party Constitution introduced by William Hague, which has brought in excessive centralised control and social engineering at the expense of merit and democracy.

“It is time for ordinary Conservative Party members to ‘take back control’.”

In a serious shake up, CDO is drafting a new Conservative Party Constitution with the assistance of John Strafford, constitutional expert and Chairman of Campaign for Conservative Democracy (CCD), which will include plans to give local associations the right to choose their parliamentary candidate and member of Parliament.

This would put an end to the controversial interference from CCHQ over candidate selection, which has infuriated activists when left-leaning candidates have been forced on them.

The document says:

“Prior to the 1998 Constitution, constituency associations had effective control of their candidates in a general election. CCHQ should be limited to grading candidates according to their performance, talent and ability, with more emphasis on testing core beliefs and speaking ability; and do a report. But associations should have the ultimate decision on their MP.

“All true Conservatives with ability, merit and application should have the right to be considered as a parliamentary or local candidate. To ensure this, the post of Head of Candidates should be directly elected annually by a vote of members, so that fair treatment and natural justice is better served.

“This would reduce or eliminate the current dangerously unstable gulf between members’ views and those of their MP representatives, such as the variance over views on Brexit, brought about by excessive central direction over candidates and social engineering priorities. Having freely selected MPs in Parliament would mean these divisions would be much reduced.

“The centralising and controlling direction of Central Office would be ended; which has led to many MPs being selected who are not genuine Conservatives, do not have the necessary skills or commitment, and have insufficient loyalty to the party.

“This has manifested itself in the appalling behaviour of some current Conservative MPs, and previous ones who were stripped of the whip, and who are the root cause of political instability at present.

“Politics has also become too managerial – just another job – and not conviction led, a vocation driven by principles and lifetime commitment. Too many former Prime Ministers are too long retired and too much engaged in back seat driving.”

The new constitution also proposes:

  • Having a directly elected Conservative Party Chairman
  • Replacing the National Convention with a General Meeting of the Party to stop the party hierarchy rubber stamping decisions
  • The Spring Conference becoming a policy conference for members in a more affordable location and the October Party conference allowing members to submit motions with votes taking place

David Campbell Bannerman, Chairman of CDO, said:

“Sadly, democracy is now on life support within the Conservative Party. 

“Members are being treated with contempt and the Party has become grossly overcentralised. We need to rebuild the Party from the ground up.

“We do not need a new party, we need a democratic Conservative Party true to its values and with the members back in charge. It is time for members to ‘take back control’. The launch of the Conservative Democratic Organisation is the start of that process. CDO can save the party and its great cause.”

Claire Bullivant, Founder and Editor of the Conservative Post said:

“We’ve already been inundated by people including over 15,000 members who feel disenfranchised from the party. Their idea of conservatism is not being adhered to. They feel ignored. So we’re setting up this association for them and getting the party back on track.

A petition we launched in the summer was signed by more than 10,000 members has already forced a National Convention which will be held in January.

We won’t stop until we have restored proper conservatism to our party. Through CDO we will be leading the charge. Democracy must prevail.”

Join the thousands of Conservatives fighting every day to promote a democratic party here.

1 COMMENT

  1. Congratulations
    My offers of help, donations, advice to CCQC on 4 letters received no reply
    Oh I had the nerve to say their selections of candidates eg jailed Khan for paedophilia assault, Owen Patterson replacementbetc etc was flawed and ALL should preferably be local and chosen by local parties hit a nerve !
    Until they start treating volunteers with just respect I will ONLY support your group or Reform UK

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